Are you familiar with the Chinese Bamboo Tree?
Once planted, it doesn’t break through the ground for 4 years.
During this time, gardeners tend to this seemingly bare spot of earth – water it, fertilize it, nurture it – with no visible display of what difference their care has made.
But then, after 4 years of “nothing”, in the 5th year, the shoot bursts through the ground and grows at an amazing pace. In just over a month, it will tower over you at 90 feet high.
I feel like this relates to so many areas of life.
It resonates so deep within me right now.
Because sometimes, I give up tending to certain things I believe in.
Sometimes, we don’t see the outcomes of our kindness, generosity, patience, grace.
Sometimes, the grueling, gritty, every day work just doesn’t seem worth it.
Sometimes, we fail and instead of learning from our mistakes, give up prematurely.
Sometimes, we look crazy devoting so much time to something that gives us so little in return.
Sometimes, I look at everyone else’s bamboo trees and instead of enjoying their beauty and celebrating the hard work it took to grow them, I allow envy to settle in my stomach.
Then there are those moments – days, weeks, years – where incredible growth takes place. It was happening all along, but you didn’t see it. You couldn’t. Maybe it is all timing. Maybe you just weren’t ready. Maybe someone else came along who believed in you and even did the hard work and tended to your garden for a time when you neglected it. Maybe there are a slew of reasons. Maybe you were so busy tending to that barren ground that it just sort of changed overnight and things are suddenly happening at a dizzying pace.
I feel like I have experienced these stages at different times in life. Sometimes I give up and move on. Sometimes I wonder and doubt and second-guess why I am even doing the things I am. Or I am just lost and don’t know what is next or what I should be doing at all. And then there are times when I stand back and see the outcome and feel full and satisfied.
But you can’t skip the seasons and you can’t get the lost years back.
There is so much going on below the surface that we don’t see.
As a mother, this feels poignant.
I sense that many of us with young children feel like we are just getting through these early years with our kids. We have lost ourselves somewhere along the way and feel like every drop of energy is devoted to their care and nothing is left. We just have to get through these years and things will change. It is both joy and hardship, but I have never found myself more than through the experience of having children.
It has loosened so many lies I believed about myself and others, about where I actually find my value and what is important in life.
Even those formative years in our children’s lives are like tending to a bamboo tree. You might not see the outcome of what you pour into their every day, the sacrifices you make for them, for years to come. And we bear the wrinkles and tired eyes from the laughter and frustration and sleepless nights and dim, early mornings.
But when I think about the bamboo tree and growing another year older and hearing the stories of others’ lives and the abrupt endings we can face…I also feel a broader call, an urgency.
Not to see change, but to work toward it.
Because sometimes, the work takes years and years and maybe I don’t even get to enjoy the shade that will one day come from the daily tending,
I can imagine who will.
And I wonder, what have I been tending to beneath the surface all this time?