Root Bound or Opportunity Seeking?

Wilted yellowing leaves are the best indicator that something is wrong. A vibrant plant should be lush and green with good flexibility. But when the roots have filled the container, a plant’s subsequent growth fails to spread outward. The roots grow back into themselves and the plant becomes root-bound. This kind of misguided growth chokes the life from a potted plant.

Often the gardener sees no indication the plant is suffering because the roots are out of view, below the surface. The casual passerby assumes the plant is doing fine. But because it is root-bound in its container, the plant is trapped in its own entanglement. If the gardener is not paying attention, the plant will die.

Like the plant, I struggle when the “things” in my life—even my writing life—grow inward, choking out my development. Yet outwardly I look “fine.”

I like to think I love adventure and I do. But sometimes the familiar is more comfortable. The known can be a safe haven for my soul, but too much “safety” can quench my spirit and stifle my growth. I become root-bound—just like the plant.

When the gardener takes the dying plant and repots in a larger container, an amazing change takes place. Although at first the plant may go into shock, the roots begin to spread themselves and grow outward. This new growth recharges the plant and encourages new, stronger foliage.

I took a hard look at my own growth through the lens of Philippians 3:13–14: “…But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward calling of Christ Jesus.” I meticulously went through a process of eliminating everything in my life that keeps me root-bound. Nothing was sacred. I asked myself the hard questions:

  • What keeps me from growing?
  • Do I live my life with purpose?
  • What really matters to me? And do I live my life as if those things are priorities?
  • If I knew I was dying, what would I do with the time I had left?
  • What frivolous things rule my life instead of the important things?

I stand in awe of our heavenly Father, who is willing to encourage and equip me to grow beyond my “pot.” Working in tandem with the Master Gardener, I can learn to grow outward and feel safe outside my self-inflicted entanglements. He provides daily opportunities for growth, and if I’m willing, hands me the tools to equip me in my new adventures, whether it’s in what and how I write or how I teach the students in my classroom.

But I must choose daily to be repotted—to cast off the fear of the unknown, embracing change and calling it adventure.

One of my greatest fears is not of failing, but it is of looking back at my life and wondering, “What if?” So today and every day, I will continue to make the choice to grow outward, refusing to be root-bound.

For more stories like this check out: The Real Dirt on Being Happpy! (Lessons from the Garden series)