Last week was transition time for my seedlings. After weeks of happily starting life on the east-facing windowsill in my guest room, they moved outside. I actually started the process two weeks ago, giving them a taste of the greater extremes of outdoor living, one hour at a time, then two. Then I forgot about them, and they got about five hours, so I gave them the next day off. Then back out again, into the stronger sun and wider temperature range, in order to “harden them off” so I could plant them in my garden cage.
Because of this process, those seedlings are not looking their best right now. Direct exposure to the sun, no longer filtered through the window glass, has partially burned some of the leaves. Wind has been a new experience in their lives as well, toughening their stems but probably also contributing to the loss of some of the smaller leaves. We haven’t had any rain while they’ve been outside, but I have turned the hose on them, giving them an experience of the power of water which was previously unknown to them. Then I actually turned them upside down in order to remove them from their pots and get them into the ground.
What a ride this has been for these young plants! I do expect that they will survive; generations of gardeners have developed this method of toughening up the young plants so they can survive in the harsher conditions of the great outdoors. But I’m also not thinning the plants yet; if two seeds sprouted in each little pot, I’ve left them both. After a few weeks, once the plants are more fully adapted to their new homes, I’ll remove the less vigorous plant in each location, giving the stronger one full reign over its assigned plot of ground.
We are very much like those plants. We begin life in the sheltered womb, in a gestational incubator where sun and wind do not have direct access to our vulnerable young bodies. The birthing process is a shocking and painful one, and some don’t survive it. We must then grow accustomed to a new world, where the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” will batter us about—some of us quite a lot, others not so much. We find our patch of ground and we thrive there, but we bear the scars of those experiences, in our bodies and our souls.
What doesn’t kill us does make us stronger. There’s a story running around the internet (apparently one of those “urban legends”) that full-grown trees in the completely enclosed Biosphere 2 would suddenly topple over when they reached a certain height because they had not experienced the strengthening effects of wind. Regardless of whether the story is true, there is a truth behind it. We may not appreciate the painful experiences in our lives, but they do teach us valuable lessons. Like my little plants, we grow stronger as we adapt to our environment and survive our experiences.
Spend some time in reflection on the experiences in your life which have left an impact on you. How have you grown stronger? Can you give God thanks for all the experiences in your life?