Make Room to Grow

Last spring I decided to grow lettuce because I was tired of tossing bags of limp leaves from the refrigerator when I was hoping to make a salad or sandwich wrap.

Young lettuce plants grow below amaryllis blooms

In April, young lettuce leaves peek from below amaryllis blooms

I knew I’d have to use clay pots near our house since rabbits would devour lettuce farther away, so I checked how many I could turn to that use. If I planted some with the arugula, gave up a pot of carrots, and mingled others with early blooming flowers, I’d have three pots—plenty!

So I headed to Plant Depot and bought a pony-pack each of romaine and red leaf lettuce. Back home, I planted the three pots, nestling red leaf lettuce among just sprouting amaryllises in one of them. I figured when the amaryllises finished blooming, the growing lettuce leaves would hide their fading leaves and within weeks take their place entirely.

All went well … for awhile.

Stunted lettuce heads grow among amaryllis bulbs

In May, lettuce growing among amaryllises hasn’t grown

But by mid-spring the lettuce tucked among the amaryllises was stunted and tough, while the other plants were round and tender.

That’s when it hit me. Amaryllises aren’t annuals—plants that completely die back after blooming. They’re bulbs, so even though what’s on the surface dies back, what’s under the soil multiplies. The lettuce roots had no room to grow and couldn’t produce good leaves.

Amused at my cluelessness, I thought, Isn’t this just like what happens when we try to add a new spiritual habit without making space for it?

After all, adding a spiritual habit doesn’t happen magically and usually requires us to give something up.

For example:

Several healthy lettuce heads grow in a clay pot

In May, romaine and red leaf lettuce grow happily in their own pot

  • Regularly spending time with God by reading the Bible and praying helps us know God and draw close to him (Joshua 1:8; Matthew 6:6; 2 Timothy 3:16). To make spending time with God a habit we might decide to give up one daily sitcom or fifteen minutes of Internet surfing. (After all, don’t we have time for what we really want to do?)
  • If I want to share the gospel better, I might memorize key verses (1 Peter 3:15). To accomplish this, I might spend ten minutes of every lunch break memorizing instead of relaxing with co-workers or a book.
  • If I’m a poor listener, perhaps I’ll spend a day listening to others and drawing them out, while giving up sharing my own stories and the advice that’s always at the tip of my tongue (James 1:19).
  • If I’m a worrier, I could commit to spending a day casting every care upon God with thanksgiving, while refusing to think about potential outcomes and solutions (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • If I decide to give more money to the poor or to missions, I’ll have less to spend on something else.

Nestling lettuce amongst amaryllises doesn’t work, so if you feel God tugging you to take on a spiritual habit of eternal value—make space for it.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. ~Luke 9:23


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