She shifted direction and headed straight for the flowerbed–instead of the car. Observing her movements, curious about the sudden pull toward the plants, I was alarmed to see her bend down and break the stem of a plant in my humble [little] garden. The sound of my panicked voice filled the space between us as I questioned her actions and fought a rising annoyance.
The plant that once stood upright and seemingly strong was now bent over, resembling a stalk of harvested corn. Though it sounds as if I’m adept at gardening, I am not. My mom, however, is a wizard with plants. She knows when to prune, how often to water, and the likes of such plant thriving necessities. I am sufficiently happy when a plant lives a second week of life. I wish that was an overstatement, but it is not. Where my mom has plant intuition, I have zero.
My mom’s ability in the garden substantiates her authority in decision making. She has an established reputation as a good gardener, so why would I question her actions or defer to my own understanding? As she stooped low and snapped the stem, my confusion and distrust erupted in a statement—that plant is still living. What my words lacked in snark, the proceeding question delivered in full. Why–did–you–do–that?
Her answer surprised me. I’m breaking it so it will grow back fuller. I saw death as an impending result of her actions; she saw the danger of the plant becoming tall and woody if it went unpruned. In her experience, she knew breaking the stalk would encourage the plant to flourish. That felt counterintuitive, yet I couldn’t stop ruminating on what she said.
Something perfectly fine is sometimes broken to promote fullness and growth. Just as I was wrapping my head around that concept for a plant, I was struck by the enormity of how that had also been true in my own experience. Just as I delighted in my “still living” plant, I have settled for the appearance of “good enough” in relationships—with family, myself, and others.
“Good enough” forgets to prune criticism from conversation, turn the soil of compassion, and fertilize the roots of intimacy. It often looks like investing the bare minimum in the life of the person on the other side of the equation. Sometimes that person has been me. I’ve been known to go through the motions, with an outward appearance of “fine,” while my spirit withered from a lack of wellness.
My mom can assess the trajectory of a plant’s growth in a quick glance. She doesn’t hesitate to snap steams or deadhead flowers. Panic is not part of her process because she trusts her understanding of the order of living things. What I saw as living, she understood as room for growth. What I lacked, she had in abundance.
I would not have touched the plant my mom was immediately drawn toward. It would have died a slow death when the first freeze hit, and I would have crossed my fingers hoping for its return in the spring. Hoping instead of cultivating, which sometimes forfeits the work necessary for the very thing hoped for.
Brokenness is bothersome. It hurts. Though not a master gardener, I’m pretty good at avoiding painful things, so I’ve decided to start looking at my relationships with fresh eyes. Though not my instinct, I’m warming up to the idea of being broken to be restored, to encourage fullness, and new growth.
Sometimes–things must be broken to be renewed.
I’ve replayed the garden scenario many times since that day. Remembering that things must sometimes be broken to perpetuate regrowth reminds me to lean in and trust the process—even when I don’t see the purpose or possibility. What my eyes can’t see, I entrust to the Gardener, and quiet my audible annoyance at the inconvenience of pain.