On Significance: The Tale of Two Plants


On my window sill, a tree grows. Its leaves soak in the light streaming through the cutout window of my home office. Moment by moment, at an imperceptible rate, branches spread and fledgling leaves emerge. Planted in an Asian ceramic pot, this former branch my parents cut off and gave to me has more than survived. It has grown new roots. Now, as a new set of green reaches towards the ceilinged sky, the air around it invisibly retreats to make more room.

Outside, on my 2nd floor balcony, another plant droops. Its withered leaves cling onto a listless and brittle branch. It is a shell of what could have been. Intended to bloom beautiful, white Jasmine flowers, these transplanted branches serve as a cautionary reminder, a sign that growth and rooting are not always guaranteed. Even with watering and a makeshift greenhouse (we placed a bag over it…), it has escaped life. Or perhaps life has escaped it. A gentle breeze whisking away its browned leaves into the air – this is all that remains to happen.

Potential, Vision, Dreams, Purpose. We call it many things, this search for significance. We want to believe that our humanity has intention, that our lives matter. Plants, after all, are meant to grow; they are designed to express their freedom by expanding their root systems, reproducing and participating in photosynthesis. What, then, is our design? What are we meant for? Answers abound:

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The golden girl. The funny and caring guy. Sex. Prestige and acknowledgement. Success. Pointlessness. Enough money to pursue our dreams. Making our parents proud. Personal satisfaction. Carpe Diem. Family.

Is it all these things? Is it some of them? Confusion sets in, and yet, hope and truth remain.

Genesis 1:27

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

I will admit that there are long stretches of time when I do not reflect on life’s significance. Then, there are seasons when this is all that I think about. In those times, I often find myself looking inward instead of upward, searching myself instead of God, who crafted my very being. But if Genesis is true, then how I come to understand divine intention holds even deeper meaning than personal significance. Why? Because it goes beyond finding something that fulfills me in the present. It becomes about living and dying, growing and withering.

Where then is this mysterious hope of life? It is found as we begin to meet the One who has sought us out this whole time, the One whose image we bear. In Him, our significance and our life are found and restored. Christ be glorified.

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