Tulips

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. (Matthew 6:27-29)

My husband’s avocation is photography. In March 2018 he casually suggested that we go to the Netherlands to take pictures of tulips. We booked the last cabin on a river cruise and sailed in April. We loved all that we saw, but of course the best day was our visit to the famous Keukenhof Gardens. More than seven million bulbs, including 800 different varieties of tulips, are planted across the 79 acres of the world’s largest flower garden. The beauty is breath-taking beyond description.

The semi-tropical climate in Southwest Florida does not support cultivation of tulips. However, having lived most of my life in “the north,” I have lots of memories of tulip bulbs for sale in the autumn and tulips blooming five to six months later—a sure sign of spring. I’m not a horticulturalist or even a gardener, but I have learned that tulips need an extended period of time with temperatures below 50 degrees. Bulbs planted in September or October get established and take nourishment from the soil. In November roots begin to grow down from the base. The cold temperatures trigger changes in the cells of the bulbs. In February and March the starch (carbohydrates) in the bulbs turn to sugar providing energy for the leaves and flower to gradually push upwards out of the bulb.

As I try to make sense of this crazy, challenging time, I find analogies helpful. So, I invite you to think with me about tulips. Consider all the unseen changes happening inside a tulip bulb buried under the ground in the dark through the cold months of winter. Reflect on how all that invisible microscopic activity leads to green leaves and brightly colored blossoms bursting out of the ground into the sunshine. Be amazed with me by the miracle of God’s creation. What beauty God has wrought in the transformation of a bulb into a single tulip!

We’re in the midst of autumn moving toward winter. The days are getting shorter. The pandemic has changed our lives physically, socially, economically, and spiritually. Many of the changes are difficult to bear. Sometimes it feels like we are living through a very dark and cold time in our world. I find hope in the conviction that no matter how dark and cold the world seems to be, God is with us, now and always. God is working in and through us in ways we cannot see. I believe spring will come and we will be transformed.

Prayer Focus: Letting Go

God of the lilies and the tulips: Help us to trust that you are present in our lives and in our world. Take away our desire to be in charge, to think we need to know and control everything. Help us to let go and let your Spirit work your will in our lives in ways visible and invisible. Amen.