A friend dropped off a large amaryllis bulb in a pretty turquoise pot just before Christmas. As we stood masked in my driveway that day and he handed me the heavy gift bag, there’s no way he could have known the true weight and value of the gift he was giving me. More likely, his wife, the mastermind behind the gift, knew the symbolism and the meaning that an amaryllis has carried for me for years, but even she could not have known how the bulb would sit on the corner of a table and act as preacher, teacher, and consolation all in one. Could not have known how the bulb would be the very last thing I’d look at each night as I spoke to a picture of my Mom who art in Heaven and then turned off the last light in the house, how it would serve as both vehicle and chalice for hope when I needed it the most.
There’s a risk to having an amaryllis plant in your house, and that is that it is not guaranteed to bloom. There’s no assurance that it will stretch out long green leaves and further, no promise that it will ever, in fact, flower. Plenty of amaryllis don’t, for lots of reasons. Maybe they’re overwatered, or there’s something wrong with the soil, or there’s not sufficient light. It happens. Just because you bring an amaryllis plant into your house with the very best of intentions, doesn’t mean you’ll see it grow.
And this one didn’t, not for a long time.
It was hard to look at and honestly, tempting to move it out of my view. An amaryllis bulb is not beautiful on its own. It’s kind of rough and scarred and dead-looking, really. The beauty of the bulb lies in the promise of what’s within. Still, I watched and waited and hoped for the growth which I could not make happen on my own. As a friend of mine says, you can’t make a flower grow by pulling on its stem, but we want to sometimes, don’t we? We want to use our force and will to bring something to the light and we try, too, often without a lot of success.
There was a lesson this bulb was teaching me in this season, actually a hatful of lessons, and it’s not new territory for me but somehow this year found me more receptive to the wisdom of this particular bulb. I’d approach it with my heart racing from worry and stress and walk away calm, night after night, because somewhere around January 4th, that sucker started to grow.
Well, that’s not entirely accurate. As we know, by the time we see something grow (a flower, a tree, an animal, a person, a movement, an enterprise, a relationship, a business, a church, faith), there’s been a ton of progress already on the inside where it counts, but on that day, I could start to see the very peeking of a green leaf and some part of me which had been holding my breath began to exhale just a little.
As the days have gone on, I witness more growth, a number of supporting leaves-in-waiting and in the hollow of the two largest leaves right at the top, the shadow of flowers. I don’t know what color they will be or how or when they’ll bloom but there they are, unmistakably present. Once this bulb started its visible growth, I have to say it’s been accelerating at quite a pace and it humbles me how little I have had to do with any of it.
Because good things want to grow, don’t you think?
Good things, people, movements, and yes, us, have everything they need inside of them to grow because that’s how they’ve been designed by a much wiser and kinder hand than ours. There’s something in us and other good growing things that knows the sun and reaches for it. Senses the warmth and light and points itself toward it. That’s what my plant is doing these days, on a literal diagonal slant toward the window and I still find myself amazed that it knows to do this all on its own, speck by speck. I don’t know when I internalized the idea that I’m in charge of all the growing things, but I was mistaken, and this plant is making sure I know it.
I don’t need to tinker or watch or prune or worry over it. In fact, those things would just hurt the plant and prevent it from flowering in the end. Really, it just needs good soil and a good place to be and the tiniest sprinkle of water from time to time. This bulb, it knows what it’s doing.
Do you have something in your life you wish would grow faster? A career, a vocation, a person, a relationship, faith? Maybe it’s a relief to hear today that it’s not all up to you. Maybe growth is not something for us to force so much as to observe and enjoy.
As I cozy up to my amaryllis plant late each night, I hear the voice of my mother saying, “Rest, dear one. Breathe. Do you see how the plan of God is unfolding for good? Do you see how it’s all bigger and better than you could have imagined? Do you see that it’s really not all up to you, and that it never was? Trust, watch it grow, be grateful, and go to bed!”
(Mothers, they don’t ever stop, do they?)
It’s true, in this crazy time, I don’t know what’s going to happen next on a wide variety of fronts, but God does, and from the tiny part of the picture that I can see, something new is about to bloom. Maybe even from something that right now looks pretty ugly and dead. The growth is churning from within, reaching for light, and working to burst forth and unfold right on schedule. And maybe it looks impossible to us, but the truth is that good things were made to grow toward the light. It’s what they want to do and it’s how they were designed from the start. How unlikely and how glorious, thanks be to God.