I do not know why
Some plants grow
In the sun, and some
In the shadows,
But I do know
They still grow.
– Morgan Harper Nichols –
A long, rectangular patch of dirt runs along the side of the house we share with my in-laws. It’s a garden, but no one would call it that at the moment. Pine needles lay like a blanket on top of the soil, an old kale plant stands tall, yellow, and bare, and rusty tools lean on each other in a corner.
It will stay as is for the rest of winter, but when the weather warms up, this patch of dirt will become a garden again- full of lettuce, chard, and white radishes with an abundance of garlic chives and mint.
My mother-in-law tells me the plants grow every year even when they aren’t tended well. The sporadic California rain pools on top of the silt-like soil and slowly drains into the ground, and somehow this is enough to keep the plants going.
This past spring the kids and I took responsibility to care for the garden. We watered it, attempted to keep the weeds at bay, and soon enough we witnessed tiny green sprouts everywhere in our garden.
One week after an unusual bout of steady rain for several days, the plants were wild with growth. The radish leaves hung over the sidewalk, begging to be cut and pickled into kimchi. The red lettuce was plenty for salads and wraps. The kale and chard were robust, and the mint quickly took over its part of the land. I was most surprised though that they seemed to grow exponentially at night- without sun and without any human help.
Darkness isn’t one of the key ingredients that make plants grow. We’re taught plants need water, air, light, the right soil, and the right temperature, but darkness isn’t mentioned. I’m neither a botanist nor a gardener, but witnessing growth in darkness spoke volumes to me about our spiritual growth.
We’re keen to want light in our faith journey. We pray for clarity and direction, and we ask for plans and thoughts on our future. We ask God to grow us, lead us, teach us, mold us, but we’re surprised when He does this in the dark, in the middle of the night.
I’m learning we can’t know light without darkness. We can’t know life without death. We can’t know morning without night. We can’t know growth without first being a seed hidden and planted in the ground.
I’m in that place now. Like a seed, I am soaking in nutrients through mentoring, counseling, and cultivating life-giving relationships. But a seed only becomes a plant through its death, and I am also being dismantled in this season. God is breaking me down to build me back up again. He is chiseling the uneven parts of my character so I can reflect His holiness and goodness. He is revealing the broken parts of my story and healing them. He is solidifying my identity into a firm foundation so I can know I am His beloved, fearfully and wonderfully made.
I was afraid of this season before coming into it. I was scared to be hidden lest I become forgotten. I was scared of the dark and the lack of vision for the present and for the future. I was scared of the pain of exposing my hidden darkness to His healing light. But I’m learning not to fear the dark and instead to embrace this intimate and sacred space with God. He is good in this place, and He is doing good.
The seeds in our garden lay dormant as winter approaches. On the surface, it looks hopeless and dead, so we wait. We long for the rains to come again, for the sun to warm up the land. The seasons will change, and new life is coming.