The Imperceptible Motion Underneath

Trusting the process and pace of growth

Apr 02, 2023

Growth Seasons Personal Growth Perspective God
white and red-petaled flower bud

Photo by Xuan Nguyen

Spring officially commenced a week ago, though you’d never be able to tell by looking outside. Just two days ago, it snowed again, after it had all finally melted. The streets were the epitome of a winter wonderland, every surface dusted in white. More is predicted for this week, with temperatures still in the low 40s. The dreariness of the winter sky has not lifted. And the trees are still recovering from frost, showing no signs of something blooming anytime soon. Not a single bud, not a single stem shooting forth.

And even so, we know spring is coming, with all her vibrant renewal energy. There is hope in that guarantee, an assurance we can hold on to. Some days, this is the only thing that gets me through winter—knowing the seasons will change. That the somber clouds will not last and the light of the sun will soon pour through, warming the house and my soul.

Then there are other days, days when my patience has grown dry like the branches and I am desperate for spring. Seeing it on my calendar is not enough, I want to see it in my backyard. I need the blossoms to appear, the colors to come back, the greenery to take over this barren land. I am eager for that renewal to make its way from my garden to my heart. I crave a fresh start, a recharge. Spring needs to hurry up and arrive. I’m furious with Punxsutawney Phil for predicting six more weeks of winter. Right about now, I’m the one who wants to retreat to my den and not come back out.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

~Ecclesiastes 3:1

Alas, no amount of complaining, venting, or lamenting will rush the arrival of spring. I have to wait it out. And so it is with any growth—personal, spiritual, emotional, relational. It cannot be driven to fruition by our desperate pleas. The seed must germinate for as long as necessary before sprouting. It has to prepare itself to materialize properly. It takes what it takes, as they say. I have zero say in spring’s timeline. It has its own trajectory. The process of spring, like the process of growth, needs to be trusted, “for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9).

On the surface—of the soil, and of life—it may often appear like nothing is happening.

We grow discouraged and restless in the waiting. We want to see movement, change. Yearning for a shift, we try to speed up the process, or control it, demanding a different outcome. And if that doesn’t work, we might lose hope completely. The soil appears to us as nothing but dirt. Our life seems nothing more than an endless repetition of monotonous, mundane tasks, leaving us feeling lifeless. No vibrancy, no awe. Our spirit begins to reflect the colorless sky of wintertime.

And yet, a part of us—however miniscule—holds on to the assurance that change is coming. We have to believe that there is life under the soil, otherwise what’s the point of trudging forward? We put our faith in “what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1), for we know that God is at work in the background. He has imbued our life with latent potential, waiting for the right moments to enable it to arise. Like the budding flower, we look up and expand skyward, ascending toward the only hope that is unfailing this side of heaven.

Sometimes growth appears stagnant. Sometimes it comes in the form of stillness, a frozen body of water with a motionless surface. But there is motion underneath, as imperceptible as it may appear to our naked eye. Below the coating of our outer layers, we are a patchwork of emotions and thoughts that are constantly changing, constantly evolving with age and experience. We are daily presented with situations in which a choice must be made, and in those moments, we can choose an outcome that will steer us in the direction of beneficial growth.

As much as we can’t control the pace at which we grow—as evidenced by the unlearned lessons that keep showing up in our life—we can control our intentions.

We can aim to do better, be better. We can place our focus on the areas we would like to see a shift. When our intent is open-hearted and loving, what flows out of that will be for our highest good. Sometimes all life asks of us is to remain dormant, inactive, but mindfully so. It is asking us to pay attention, even in the waiting. To notice how we feel, to notice what parts of us have dried up, and where we are needing to bloom.

Because the buds will turn into blossoms, in time. The color will return to the garden. The trees will be lush with leaves again. And spring will shimmer in all her glory, birthing new possibilities, offering a fresh start. The frozen surfaces of our lives will begin to melt, revealing the desires waiting to burst forth. We come to understand that growth looks different in different seasons of our lives. At times rapid, other times excruciatingly slow. But it’s all part of God’s process, one we will never fully comprehend. All we can do is tend to the soil, be patient, and keep our gaze skyward.