The above image has become my most powerful metaphor this Spring. I discovered it a few weeks ago and have made a couple of pilgrimages back to it since then. Last night Maddy and I braved a swarm of mosquitos to finally take photos of it. (We tried to do a video too, but Maddy was too busy fending off mosquitos to hold the camera still long enough.)
This simple sapling, taking root in the middle of an old rotten stump, has taught me more than many of the teachers in my life.
Out of the rot of the old, the new will grow.
Nobody understands more about transformation than the Creator does. Look at nature, read the story of Easter – it’s all about transformation, and its all intertwined.
Life happens in cycles. Birth, growth, maturity, death, decomposition, regeneration, new birth, and so on and so on.
It’s the same for every one of us. In order for new seeds (ideas, projects, businesses, etc.) to find places to take root, we need other things to die.
When we fail, we need to have the grace and dignity to let those failures sit and rot and become compost for new ideas.
When a project has reached the end of its value, we need to be willing to kill it, watch it decompose, and then watch what new things emerge out of the space it creates.
It’s human nature to want to hang onto the old “tree” (project, lifestyle, career, home, relationship, etc.), because it offers safety, familiarity and strength. But sometimes that tree has already begun to rot from the inside (the places we keep hidden from each other and even from ourselves) and holding onto it is only serving to hinder the growth of the young seedlings lost in its shadow.
Death is hard. Decomposition is excruciating. I know it – I’ve been through more cycles than I care to count. Rot is ugly, painful, and demoralizing. Some days it feels like it will never end. Some days it feels like there is nothing but rot in our lives.
This past year has been that way for me. Lots of ugliness. Lots of wading through rot. Lots of letting go.
Sitting with rot seems counterintuitive, especially in a culture that values productivity and success and climbing social ladders (with sturdy rungs that never succumb to rot). And yet the rot is an important part of the process. The rot creates the nutrients for new growth, and that takes time – LOTS of time. Compost isn’t created out of freshly killed trees. The tree stump in the photo, for example, was probably dead for about ten years before a new seed found enough nutrients there to sustain its growth.
For each of us, it’s the same. When something old has died, we need to give sufficient time for the transformation before we can expect new growth to happen. Patience is the most valuable part of the process.
Don’t rush your way through transformation. Let rot happen.