I have never felt I am someone who has a “green thumb.” Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother’s ability to grow plants and keep them growing. My mom can grow almost anything indoors and outdoors: house plants, flowers, vegetables, etc. After almost giving up on growing plants other than rhubarb and perennials that grow back each year, I have a renewed interest in growing plants but without soil, using only water. 

I became curious about the concept of growing plants without soil when teaching a class of 4th and 5th graders about how astronauts grow plants in water while soaring far above planet Earth in the International Space Station. My class experimented growing green beans by planting the seeds in cotton balls instead of soil. Some beans took root and grew beautifully while others didn’t grow beyond a sprout, depending on how well watered the seeds were. It was amazing to see how God caused those little seeds to grow with such little effort on our part!

I became even more intrigued about growing plants without soil when purchasing a “live” head of lettuce with the root still attached. Is there any way that I could plant this root and re-grow lettuce? After a little research, I found that it is possible to grow lettuce, green onions, and other plants by simply placing the roots in water. I re-planted the lettuce root in water—and it grew! I also re-planted green onions by putting the roots and bulbs in a glass of water in the kitchen window. Within a week, I was harvesting onions—and they keep growing as I keep trimming the tops and adding water! While this success in growing plants makes me feel that I may have a green thumb after all, I fully realize that it is only God who makes the plants grow.

When growing plants in water, it is important to note that plants do not grow well in city water since the added chlorine and trace chemicals hurt the plants. Plants need to be rooted in pure, filtered water free from harmful chemicals. In order for plants to absorb water, the water needs to be refreshed every few days. If the water is not kept clean or if the water dries up, plants will shrivel to nothing.

How are we like plants? Not only do we need earthly water to sustain our lives physically, but we also need spiritual water, which comes only from God’s Word, the Bible. Like plants that need pure water, we need God’s Word taught in truth and purity—unchanged and uncontaminated by false teachings. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts to sustain us throughout our lives and reassures us that our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. 

Have you ever observed what happens to a pot of beautiful flowers that go without water or are stressed by the wind or hot sun? While the beautiful flowers are about to wither and die, it amazing to see how quickly they bounce back to new life when given a drink of water!  What happens when we go for stretches without the water of God’s Word or face personal stresses in our lives? Just as plants get weak, our faith is at risk of withering when thirsty for the Word or facing challenges in life. The water of the Word is sure to bring new life that not only helps us face our struggles, but also helps us thrive as we look to eternity with our Lord and Savior in heaven. 

Water sustains the lives of plants, whether grown in cotton balls, glass jars, or in flowerpots. There is nothing that we can do to make seeds grow except to water them regularly. Miraculously, God makes the plants grow. The same holds true in our lives. There is nothing that we can personally do to make the seeds of faith grow. It is only through the water of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit miraculously creates and sustains these seeds of faith through life and to eternity.

In John 4:13, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that he alone is the source of the “living” water, “Everyone who drinks this (earthly) water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

May we take Jesus’ words to heart and stay “rooted” in Christ through daily meditations and study of God’s Word. May we also use our time, talents, and God-given gifts to carry out the mission of sharing the water of the Word with others at home and throughout the world! 

Dear Lord and Giver of All, 
While we humbly thank you for the gifts of food, water, and all we need to sustain our physical lives, we also thank you for creating and sustaining our new lives of faith through your Word. We pray that you bless the messages of those who share the living water by preaching and teaching your Word in its truth and purity, so that people at home and throughout the world may share the peace of forgiveness through Jesus. Open our hearts and minds so that we grow in your Word daily. Strengthen our faith and use us to share the living water of the Word throughout our lives until eternity. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Kristen Smith
Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Owatonna, Minnesota