Close to 10 years ago, I heard an analogy of the Chinese bamboo tree that really stuck out to me, and I have never forgotten it. I suppose one day I’ll get around to looking it up on Wikipedia and Google to see if the facts are correct, but the principle is the same. I’ll try to share the story as accurately as I remember it.
Lately my life has looked like an unending series of self-development activities that aren’t showing the type of results I crave, but I have faith in the process. I read heavily, I write daily, I am learning a new language, I am delving deep into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, I am building new relationships and deepening ones with people in my circle, I am hitting seasonal PRs every week in the gym, I am learning to sing and play guitar..
And the list goes on. It never ends, really, if you want to know the truth.
So the analogy goes like this:
The Chinese bamboo tree is unique in that it grows irregularly. In the first year the tree grows only a few feet and actually stays moderately small for several years. The tree is continuously nurtured and watered, but it appears to hardly grow during this time period. After 5 years, suddenly the tree shoots up to 90 feet or more.
So what was happening in the five-plus years of constant watering? I speculate: the roots were getting established.
Sometimes we just need to keep the faith that what we are doing is the right thing, even though we aren’t seeing the results we expect. If we are talking to God daily, if we have consulted our very best information, we are constantly investing in our goals — we will see breakthrough.
Don’t get me wrong. I stress, more than anything else, communicating with God daily to make sure we are on the right track. I stress studying the area we are pursuing, seeking a multitude of counselors who know what they are talking about (ideally having walked the path we are pursuing), and incrementally improving in any way we can. We want to have a positive attitude, but we don’t want to be delusional.
I believe there are many people that completely waste their lives going after something that isn’t going to give them a very good return on their investment — like.. I dunno.. say, any job that isn’t what they are made for. Especially one where all they get from it is a paycheck.
It’s smart to measure our progress so we can be assured that we aren’t being foolish. However, there will be times when we are pounding the pavement over and over again, and it will look on the surface like we are wasting our time. The people around us will tell us we are being foolish. The circumstances around us will become stormy and it will look like everything we are working for is a total waste of time. But we will still have that feeling in our gut that what we are doing is the right thing to do..
That’s when we need to keep the faith and press forward. We never know when that breakthrough moment is going to be. I would speculate that most people who go out on a limb to accomplish something significant quit prematurely.
How do I know? Because I meet so few people out there that ever try to do something significant. And because even fewer people out there see it through to the end.
To the world changers out there that have been fighting the good fight, that no matter what happens refuse to be swayed from their destiny: keep watering. Your breakthrough is coming.