It always takes time to develop roots

I “plant-sat” a miniature banana tree for a friend this fall. I don’t have a green thumb by any stretch of the imagination, and the thought of caring for a large plant for an extended period of time was daunting.

I prepared a sunny spot for the tree next to my kitchen window and watered it faithfully once a week. For a while, it looked healthy and happy, and I had a slice of the tropics in the corner of my kitchen.

But one week, the tree’s leaves, which had already turned brown around the edges, began to droop. 

I diagnosed the problem as overwatering. Determined to do my best to care for the tree, I bought a bag of potting soil and decided to re-pot the plant. With much difficulty, I removed the tree from the pot and carefully cleared the soil from the roots. That in itself was harder than I expected.

Everything was running smoothly until I set the tree down for a second and accidentally snapped off what appeared to be a vital portion of the roots. Not knowing what to do and refusing to acknowledge what deep down I already knew, I tossed the broken root bulb back into the pot, placed the tree on top and covered it with soil. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

It wasn’t long before what I knew in the back of my mind played out before my eyes. Brown discoloration slowly crept up the stalk of the tree, chasing the green from it, and soon the leaves drooped completely and died. I had killed the tree. 

As a last chance effort, I put the root bulb in water with crushed eggshells and tossed the shriveled tree into the dumpster. On a whim, I dug it out of the trash and trimmed off the rest of the roots and put them in water, too. 

For days, that tangled mess of roots sat in water—dead, broken, hopeless. There was no sign of life. I could hardly bear to look at it—honestly, it looked like a giant crumpled spider, but I couldn’t throw it away because that would be the ultimate admission of defeat. 

I’d guess it was two weeks later that I glanced at the roots and saw green. A tiny shoot emerged from that dead stalk, and as I watched, amazed, soon one leaf uncurled, then another, and another. It was a joy to watch the progress.

Eventually, I transferred the new little banana plant from water to soil. It became the epitome of hope for me. That banana tree was completely broken, snapped right in two. All hope seemed lost. But that wasn’t the end of the story. 

We’re in the season of Advent now, a season characterized by waiting, anticipation, hope.

I listened to an episode of “The Next Right Thing” podcast recently in which Emily P. Freeman asks, “Am I looking for blooms before the roots are ready?” She follows with a confession—a tendency to want to move from brokenness to wholeness without the struggle. 

I can relate. 

Life is not always pretty. Sometimes it’s tangled and broken, and it’s hard to see a way forward. We want our circumstances to be fixed right away.

In those moments, I remember that blooms don’t happen overnight. Progress is not always immediately visible, and I am free to sit patiently in the difficulty of the waiting. Just like that banana plant, it takes time to develop roots.