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Ideal growing conditions

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June 1, 2012

By Jeanne Hunt

As friends and neighbors planted their summer gardens, I realized that “ideal growing conditions” apply to people as well as seeds.

Anyone who has planted a packet of seeds has turned over that little envelope to read when and how to plant their crop. Certain conditions are necessary for flowers and vegetables to grow and thrive: sunlight, soil, water. These all affect what will happen when these seeds go into the ground. Tomato plants in the shade will never make a tomato, and impatiens in the sun will shrivel and die.


People are not so different from seeds: we, too, need fertile soil and “ideal growing conditions” to become like Jesus Christ.


The idea is shocking that people will live in less-than-ideal growing conditions, that they remain in circumstances without loving support and amid constant confusion, stress, anger, fear, unbelief, and so on — eventually killing the life within them. All too many of us thoughtlessly find ourselves existing in horrible spiritual conditions, and we don’t even realize what is happening to us. We may experience only a vague feeling that something is wrong, but we can’t get a grip on the problem. We feel restless, bored, and anxious. We may drift from one crisis to the next without purpose or meaning or any way to combat such feelings and deal with the consequences of the crisis. Our lives may seem useless and insignificant.


This connection between seeds and people started germinating in my soul when I met an avid gardener from Reno, Nev., who shared her success for growing begonias in the desert. She told me that she simply creates a little piece of paradise for these tender plants. “For heaven’s sake, you can’t just plop a begonia down in the sand and sun and expect it to live,” she said. “Add a bunch of soil to the sand, put the begonias in the shade, and water them like crazy. Begonias need love!”


Could it be that we have been planted in the wrong soil, are not getting enough Light and that water from the well of salvation disappeared when we left the comfort and security of grade school?


It is worth our time to take stock of our daily lives and re-cultivate the way we live and reexamine what is necessary for us to flourish and find peace and happiness. It is not only possible but probable that a little readjustment can return emotional and spiritual vitality to our fruitless lives.


This also means that we need to be painfully honest with ourselves. I knew a man who worked in an office with men and women who were unfaithful to their marriage partners and even boasted of their extramarital affairs around the water cooler. He was working 40 hours a week in a place that encouraged immorality. It was no wonder that his own marriage began to suffer. Only when he woke up and got a new job did things get better for him. He needed to surround himself with honorable men and women who shared his values. Believe me, quitting his job was not easy, but it saved his soul and his marriage.
Each of us is a little seed of potential. God wants to plant us where we can prosper. He wants us to create a little piece of paradise for ourselves.


As we reexamine and re-cultivate our lives, we should ask ourselves: What do I need to live a good life? Is my life full of chaos, noise, constant talk? How and when do I make time for silence in which to hear God’s voice? Do I spend every penny I make and find myself in horrible debt? Can I cut up unnecessary credit cards and live within my means? Have I overscheduled every spare minute of my day so that I have no time to rest or to be with my spouse and children? Can I blow the whistle on this busyness?


These are tough questions. Yet, our honest responses may finally bring relief and “ideal growing conditions” in which to plant — and nurture — the seed of faith that is waiting to come to life.
Hunt is a nationally recognized catechetical leader and author.

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