I love my little urban garden. It’s not much more than a dozen potted vegetable plants on our upper back porch. But, it;s mine. And, I love watching the veggies grow.
I especially love harvesting them.
I’ve got peppers, basil. tomatoes, and three different kinds of lettuce growing out there. That, with some additional plants in the back yard garden beds, keeps us in fresh salads nightly all summer long and into the fall.
This is my second year growing my urban garden. So, admittedly, I still have much to learn. Last year, I learned how to harvest the herbs without killing off the plants. I lost one basil and a couple of parsley plants in the process.
I also had trouble with my lettuce plants – all of them.
As the plants grew, I cut the larger, outer leaves and let the smaller, inner ones grow. When they got large, I cut those and so on. I noticed that the leaves got more and more bitter and the stalks began to get milky. They went to seed early on.
Then a seasoned-gardener friend explained to me the method she uses for her lettuce plants.
When the leaves get several inches high, she cuts the entire plant – straight across – and eats those nice tender leaves. After the cutting, the plant springs back with new, tender leaves, and then she cuts those when they get several inches long. Then the process starts again. Her leaves never get bitter and her stalks don’t get milky. The plants keep producing until the end of the season. It’s the repeated cutting that keeps the plants vibrant and continually producing.
It seems odd to me that doing such a drastic thing for a plant is actually healthier for it than letting it grow of its own accord.
I was thinking about this the other night, as I lay awake wishing sleep would stop alluding me. For some ridiculous reason, my days and nights have been flipped since my spine surgery at the end of June. In the beginning, I’d get all riled up about it, impatiently fretting my way through the night. Once I stopped being such a baby about it, I realized that I have a gem of an opportunity here.
You see, these sleepless nights are a gift, during which I have the privilege of being completely alone with my Lord and Blessed Mother in the twilight silence without noise, interruption, or pressure to get something else done. I revel in their love and offer rosaries for folks in need of prayer for whom I might not normally have time to pray.
I’ve discovered many such gifts through this adventure of my spine condition.
At first, I felt like one of my lettuce plants, as though God had taken out the knife and cut me right down to my roots. It was scary, painful (in many different ways), and inconvenient. Definitely inconvenient.
But if God had not “cut me down,” I would have continued to grow in my own unruly and less-productive way, letting my stem get all milky and going to seed before my time, so to speak.
Instead, being taken down to my roots has allowed me to shoot up new, more vibrant and sweeter leaves while flourishing from deep down in the core of my being. God had to cut me back in order to get me to grow as he intended me to grow.
I’ll bet you’ve had a similar experience. If you haven’t you will. It might not be surgery, but it will be something that cuts you off right at the core and makes you feel as though you may never be useful again. It will be scary, painful, and inconvenient. Definitely inconvenient.
But it will be oh-so good for you.
You see, by surrendering the old, unproductive growth, by letting go of our stubborn willfulness, we open our hearts to God’s grace and our lives to the miracles he has in store for us.
We cannot be strong and life-giving for ourselves, our loved ones, or for the Kingdom if we’ve grown bitter and gone to seed.
In this process of being cut back, I’m learning to prioritize not just my To-Do List, but also my To-Be List. It’s making me take inventory of not just what I can do, but what I should do. Because everything I’d been being and doing before has come to a halt, I have to think and pray carefully about what God wants of me right now while I’m cut to my roots and what he’ll want of me once I start sprouting new leaves.
If he’d not cleared out the old leaves, I never would have slowed down and re-evaluated what I could or should do with the new ones.
God cut me down out of love so that I could grow back to be even more productive and in new ways than I’d been before. If that’s not true for you right now, it will be.
Pun intended, lettuce grow as God intended.