Years ago our family was visiting friends. As we were preparing to leave, my friend gifted me with a plant. While sliding into the backseat of our car, my then-8-year-old proclaimed, “She doesn’t know you very well, does she, mommy?” Even at their young ages, my children knew I wasn’t very good with plants.
My husband, however, had a green thumb. That’s an American phrase meaning “good at gardening.” I hope I can keep his roses alive now that he’s moved to heaven. Under his care, the rose gardens didn’t just survive, they thrived.
I – on the other hand – have always been especially talented at placing plants in environments where they don’t flourish. If they need sun, I leave them in the shade. I overwater. Or underwater. I never think about adding nutrients to the soil. I even managed to kill my college roommate’s cactus. (I told you I’m talented.)
I recently revisited the definition of flourishing we use in the Institute: to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment. (Oxford Languages)
This is a picture of our core value of life-giving community. A sign of life-giving community is flourishing members. They are not just surviving. They are thriving.
Think about communities you are part of. Do members flourish?
How do you know they are flourishing?
How do you know if you are?
According to our definition, someone who is flourishing is growing or developing in a healthy or vigorous way. Are you? Is your family? Your children? Your students?
I sometimes think I’m tired of growing, of learning new things. Yet, in the right environment, it happens. I think about my husband David’s flourishing flowers, herbs, and vegetables. I wonder: do young seedlings complain to their parents about having to grow? I don’t think so. When in the right environment, with the nourishment they need, plants – and people – thrive.
Jennie Allen writes about human flourishing in her book Find Your People: building deep community in a lonely world. She talks about how we were designed for community. The Creator, who created us in his image, already lived in community. The Divine Trinity. Three in one.
In the essence of our being we have a deep longing for belonging. And so do our children. We want to know we fit in and are accepted by others.
At the same time, you know whether the people you do life with are life-giving or life-sucking. None of us enjoys having the life sucked out of us. No one thrives in that environment.
So, once again. Think about your communities: church, school, workplace, neighborhood, volunteer work, online support groups.
Are you flourishing there?
Why or why not?
Are your children/students flourishing?
What nourishing ingredients might help those communities flourish? In my work in The Institute, we’ve identified some: intentional innovation, irresistible mentoring, courageous peacemaking, genuine cultural communication, and vibrant transformation. If you have been around our communities for very long, you recognize these as our core values.
These are nourishing nutrients for the favorable environment in which people grow in healthy – even vigorous ways. They are food for flourishing. Together, they nourish life-giving community.
It’s good to evaluate our communities from time to time. What might nourish flourishing in them? Or is it time to find a new, more favorable environment? You will thrive in life-giving community. We all do.
A Blessing for Those Who Need Nourishing
I’m praying for a friend who is malnourished.
Bring people her way who give life instead of sucking the life out of her.
Let a friend water her with kindness. Or perhaps prompt a child to nourish her with innocent love. Help her know she is valuable.
For the dad who is discouraged, nourish him with your presence
as you show up in a friend or colleague who speaks life into his life.
Remind him that while he may not see it today, you are at work in his family, in his children, in his future. Help him feel seen.
For the mom who feels herself wilting,
nourish her with your presence as your love shows up in her child’s hug,
in an unexpected compliment, in a cooperative student, in a surprise text of appreciation, in an expression of gratitude. Let her know she is known.
Lead me to someone malnourished today.
Use me to speak life in ways that nourish and hydrate. Remind me that those most needing nourishment may be least capable of asking for it.
Grant me discernment to generously nourish with kindness, encouragement, love, peace, and hope.
Do this in and through me. And through another. And another. And another.
And so nourish communities of humans, people you love, so they will flourish.