adjective \tō-ˈti-pə-tənt, ˌtō-tə-ˈpō-tənt\
The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines ‘totipotent’ as…
: capable of developing into a complete organism or differentiating into any of its cells or tissues <totipotent stem cells>
Latin totus whole, entire + English -i- + potent being able.
Though this word has a general application to cells of different kinds, I learned it in relation to trees. Imagine an enormous, sprawling, ancient tree, that seems to grow out as much as it grows up. One of the branches has reached so far that it can no longer hold it’s own weight up, and it’s slowly bowed down to the earth and begun to trail on the ground. That branch, left un-tended, will eventually grow roots, and spring up into a whole new tree! That’s totipotency. I like to think of it as the inherent grow-y-ness of trees.
And in a way that perhaps doesn’t seem immediately obvious, as I think through some of the transitions I’m about to make in leaving my current job and starting something new, this gives me real hope.
There’s so much that I’d like to be able to do, or see through to the end, and heaps of things that are just utterly beyond me – whether that’s training new CU leaders, planning a summer team, supporting and caring for the Relay workers I supervise, figuring out how to say goodbye and finish well, or leaving things in a good state to hand on to someone else. I am reaching my limits, or being chopped down, or branches are getting broken off, and it’s difficult (and painful) at times.
But there is a good thing happening – because trees are totipotent! And I think Christians are too. I am still growing, and I will continue to grow, and the Spirit within me has made me alive and will keep me growing in whatever new forest floor I fall on! Just as trees or branches don’t grow by setting an objective and aiming for it – they grow because that’s what they do, so I don’t grow by reaching my targets, training 30 CU leaders by lunchtime or by the success or failure of anything I do – I grow because of who I am! I am a tree! Or in marginally less weird terms, I’m in Christ. That’s enough for whatever situation I’m in!
Jesus said… “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:9-11 ESV)