When my daughter, Sara was about three years old, she wanted to plant a garden.
I’ve always enjoyed planting things and watching them grow. Sara enjoyed being my helper as we watered and pulled weeds and harvested a little crop, so it made sense that she’d want to try it on her own.
“Carrots,” she said. “I want to plant carrots.”
I’m not sure she even liked carrots. But they were easy to grow and they were fun. We could watch the green sprouts appear, then turn into a soft, dense plant.
At harvest time, the magic would happen. Yank out the green plant, and a bright orange carrot would appear.
So we bought carrot seeds. She dug a long little trench with her finger, then carefully and evenly spaced the tiny seeds. She covered them with dirt, patted them down, and used her little watering can to give them their first drink.
Then she waited.
Every day, she would go out and check on her carrots. She made sure the ground was moist so the seeds could wake up underground.
A week went by. No sprouts.
Two weeks went by. No sprouts.
I’m sure it must have been discouraging, but we had talked about how long it would take for those sprouts to appear. She knew that it might be close to three weeks.
Every day, she would toddle out to the garden to check on her babies. I could see her out the kitchen window, standing with her hands on her hips as if to say, “Well? Are you coming up, or not?”
A few days later it happened. “Daddy! Come look!”
Sure enough, there were tiny spears of green that had broken through the surface. Her patience had paid off in a long row of green fuzz.
They grew quickly, and Sara kept asking, “Is it time?” I reminded her that the patience she used to wait for those little sprouts would be necessary before harvest.
But something was wrong.
The green tops at one end of the row were starting to whither. As the days progressed, it seemed like they were dying gradually, starting from one end of the row and moving to the other.
Was it gophers? Was it something in the soil? Was it some type of fungus or insect?
A few days later, looking out the kitchen window, I found the culprit.
Sara was kneeling in the garden, doing her daily inspection. She reached down to the next “healthy” carrot, yanked it out of the ground, examined it to see if it was “done” yet . . . then stuck it back in the soil.
She couldn’t wait. She had to know. And in the process, it disturbed the growing process.
People are like that, too.
- We want healthy relationships, but the other person doesn’t cooperate.
- We want our toddlers to quit having tantrums.
- We really want our teenagers to mature and act like humans.
- We want our spouse to realize how much those little habits drive us crazy, and we want them to stop.
- We want our friends to get through the things in life they’re stuck on.
But we can’t rush growth. If we try, we only get frustrated.
All of us are on a life journey. We know how hard it is to change ourselves, and wish it would happen faster. So why are we so impatient with others when they don’t make the changes that seem so obvious to us?
Because growth is a process.
So how do we handle our frustration with that process, in ourselves and others?
I think it’s a two-part perspective:
- Loving people (including ourselves) completely where they are right now.
- Not giving up on their growth.
If we miss the “loving” part, they become a project. If we miss the “not giving up” part, we lose our influence.
Green tops means we’re growing. But the bright orange takes time.
Got somebody you’re frustrated with? Tell them today that you love them. Tell them today that you believe in them.
It’ll help them grow a little taller tomorrow.