Growing Pains

By Howard Cole

Once upon a time two little seeds fell to the ground and slowly sunk into the damp soil. The seeds were adjacent to a large window in the front yard of a family’s home in the suburbs. One seed had everything it needed to become a comfortable weed. The other seed would become a comforting red rose.

One day they both broke through the earth’s carpet and began to sunbathe and sway in the warm wind. Day after day they stretched their stems toward the sky. They grew and grew until both of them could peek into the window and watch the bustling family’s life. The weed tilted toward the rose and spoke with a smug tone as he observed the young mother changing a diaper.

“Change. That poor mother is always changing things. Changing the diapers, changing the oil of the car, changing the air filters in the house, changing the budget, changing the meal plans, changing her bad attitude toward her husband and children, changing her fashion, and even changing her mind. I heard her husband tell her the other day that changes were happening at work, in their church, and in the country. You’ve seen him as much as I’ve seen him changing a morally suspect channel of his TV, changing his yelling at his kids to a kinder tone and changing from being stubbornly angry at his wife for a wrong he did and asking her to forgive him. Change, change, change! Personally, I don’t believe in the benefits of change. Too often change involves pain.”

The rose blushed as it faced the weed and spoke softly. “I’m not yet old enough to share more than an opinion, so can you explain to me why you don’t believe in the benefits of change?”

Before she could finish her sentence the weed resumed his rant.

“I like things to follow a regular routine that makes life comfortable. Steady sunshine one day and soft showers the next should make everyone happy. Pain is to be resisted at all cost and pleasure should be the highest purpose and pursuit. At the end of every day one should enjoy the narcotic of nostalgia and fall asleep remembering the way things used to be.”

The rose wanted to agree but as she looked down at her stem she noticed her uncomfortable thorns. She gently challenged the weed.

“God gave me these painful points to remind me that he is the one who is creating beauty in his mysterious way. Though I don’t know much, I do know that growth includes, rather than excludes the pain of change. I’ve watched the mother and father exercise and work with pain to produce the flower of emotional pleasure, an ordered home and health. I’ve seen the children endure the pain of schoolwork, chores and correction yielding the flowers of wisdom and creativity. I’ve heard the whole family speak at the table about someone named Christ who changed water into wine and died a painful death to change the condition of sinners into beloved saints. He died, crowned with the glory of thorns.”

The weed lifted his shabby leaves to cover his ears. “I won’t hear any more of this this talk about the benefits of change. It pains me too much.”

Just as the weed covered his ears the mother called to her teenage son, “Go pull the weeds near the windows before you play your video games.” The pimpled boy approached the weed and the rose. The weed lowered his leaves from his ears and expected the boy to play in the yard. Instead, to the weed’s utter discomfort, the boy bent over, reached out, strangled his stem and pulled its roots out of the ground tossing it without a care into a garbage can. Because the rose was still small and short the boy planned to pull her out of the ground too as he mistook her for a weed. As he grabbed her stem a thorn stabbed his thumb. He winced, let go and marveled at the beauty of the red rose. As he left the rose planted in her place the rose bloomed in the sunshine with the wonder of knowing that change contains pain to produce beauty.