Some years ago our family took a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. I was awestruck by a little fern growing in the middle of a vast lava field where no other plant life could be found. Somehow it was growing against all of the odds. I’ve thought about that fern over the years. I felt a deep connection to it. Perhaps the connection is stronger because my middle name is Fern. But I also think that at some level I related deeply with the little fern’s struggle to just keep growing one day at a time. Whether it is emotional, relational, spiritual, or physical, personal development is often painfully slow. A lot can be learned from the little fern in the lava.
When looking at the little plant, I did not berate it for where it was at in its growth process. Nor did I compare it to other larger ferns that were growing in richer soil. I admired the little fern for its tenacity to keep growing. I wish I could say that I have always been kind to myself in my growth process. But sometimes I have become impatient and have berated myself for not growing any faster. When I look at others, sometimes it appears they are growing much faster than I am. I have to remember to look at how much I have grown, and just how much persistence that growth has taken. Instead of scolding myself for my slow growth process, I can appreciate and admire how I have grown so far in difficult circumstances. Some soil is richer than other soil, and it really does no good to compare myself to someone else’s growth.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if someone had tried to rescue the fern and transplant it into more fertile soil. Perhaps it could have flourished in rich soil. But then again being moved to too rich of soil in a very different climate could have done damage to the fern. Maybe the lava field was the best place for the fern to grow into the mighty fern it can someday be. Sometimes I have wished I could be moved to more fertile soil, when really I was planted in the right place all along.
What if I had tried to force the fern to grow more quickly than it was ready? Sometimes we want our process, or our loved one’s process, to go much more quickly than what is best for the situation. I generally want my growth process to be over the moment I see that I need growth. But I have also learned that short cuts in personal growth do not work. I can see where there were times in my life where I wanted a quick fix. Now I know it was better to go through a long, hard process.
The little fern did not have to question what it needed to do to grow. It naturally grew toward the sunlight. Sometimes I forget to pay attention to what my heart tells me is the natural way for me to grow and fulfill my mission. I can learn to let go and trust that my heart knows the right way to grow.
I haven’t seen the fern in years. Maybe it is still growing like I am. Maybe someday I will cross that fern’s path again. It might be a large fern that is unrecognizable to me now. I hope that my changes and growth will be enough that the fern will have a have a hard time recognizing me too.