I tried to grow plants for Lent again this year. I got a late start, but eventually I had a burst of energy and I decided that it would be lovely to force some bulbs to represent the spiritual growth we’d all experience as we prepared for Easter. I saw instructions on Pinterest for placing the bulbs in clear jars filled with marbles, so that we could see the little roots underneath the bulb as the beautiful stalks and flowers emerged from the top. (Scientific AND spiritual enlightment–check!)
Unfortunately, once again, my plants did not bloom as I’d expected. And although this little activity has been successfully completed by millions of school children and homeschool families across the globe, my bulbs would not be forced.
One had a sprout when I took it out of the bag, but it never grew roots and so it eventually withered away. Another one looked like a dead stick at first, and after weeks of sunshine and love and faithful care, it still looks like a dead stick. The third sat in its marbles for so long that I gave up hope, until the day that I noticed little white roots snaking around. A few days later, a green shoot emerged, and now that we’re completely out of the Easter season, it’s a promising looking young plant.
None of the bulbs were doing anything interesting on Easter Sunday, which is when I had hoped to have a beautiful and symbolic centerpiece to grace our brunch table.
This seems to be the year of unintentional object lessons: first, my not-decoration decorations, now my sticks in jars. They have been a good reminder for my fixation on measurable outcomes: I can plant, I can water, but it is only God who makes things grow. And sometimes when I think the root is dead in the water, there is life that I cannot see.
What a life-giving reminder! So many days I’ve been weary from working, working, working with nothing to show for my labors but a house that looks like the Big Bang just happened and three seemingly feral children who show no evidence of having been parented a day in their lives.
My little sprouting bulb illustrates this quote that I recently stumbled upon:
Of the many seasons of crop, only one is the joy of the harvest. The growth of food is a slow process that meanders through several seasons. Likewise, the growth of fruit in the life of a Christian is a slow process that has several seasons. Not all of them are harvest. Our calling is to know patience in seasons that seem purposeless. They are not.
(from Beloved Dust by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel)
Seeds planted do not immediately bear fruit, not in my own life and certainly not in the lives of my small children. There’s no promised schedule for when they’ll sprout, if at all. My job is not to force anything: not the bulbs, not the little souls, not my big soul. All I can do is faithfully nurture that which is in my care. God knows he’s entrusted this important work to an amateur. I’ll over or under water, I’ll expose to sunlight when they need shade, I’ll plant the bulbs upside down and place unreasonable expectations on them.
But all the while the real Gardener is at work: working in me, working in my family, working in those unassuming bulbs on the front porch, giving life and fruit according to his good purpose.
P.S. For the sake of today’s point, forget the fact that two of the three bulbs died. That’s a parable for another day! 🙂