One of the joys of my summer was the garden plot my son and I maintained. He and I marvelled as the sunflowers grew high, the carrots grew deep, the pumpkins sprawled out, and we could munch fruit and veggies to our hearts’ content.
One of the new plants I tried this summer was watermelon. I started this in the spring at home. After two weeks, a little shoot came up in the pot and out came two tiny leaves. For the longest time it seemed stuck there: two tiny leaves going nowhere fast. By mid-June, looking to clear the seedlings out of my house and not expecting much, I moved my little watermelon plant to the garden. Those two little leaves stayed put for quite some time, not apparently growing. I was ready to give up hope but they were still clearly alive so I didn’t pull them out. Then one day I looked and there was four leaves, then eight. Then I was away for a couple of days and all of a sudden there was an honest-to-goodness vine that started growing with incredible speed. All that time I thought nothing much was happening, my little watermelon plant was working hard on its root structure. When the time came, the strength of those roots allowed it to take off.
I promise I won’t belabour the gardening metaphors all semester long. But as the gardening season winds down and we begin a new year together, I can’t help but thinking about roots. A seminary I used to work with in England had as part of their slogan, “Roots down.” In theological college, we are given the opportunity to put roots down into the Christian tradition to learn from those who have come before us and to settle deeply into the great inheritance of the Christian faith. We’re also given the opportunity to put roots down into our relationship with God, to take the time to cultivate and nurture spiritual practices that will sustain us in ministry. And we can put roots down into this community, deepening relationships with our sisters and brothers in Christ and supporting one another in mutual growth.
As I was reminded this summer, putting down good roots takes time. So as the new year begins with its inimitable combination of energy, excitement, trepidation, confusion, and occasional chaos, I hope that you will allow yourself to slow down and not feel rushed. Time in seminary and the time to listen, learn, and grow with other like-minded people is a great gift. Even if it’s not detectable by other people, start putting down those roots that will allow you to flourish in Christ for years to come.
This message was written by College Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.