by Virginia Hinckley Pearce
At first there was that quiet kind of reverence and then gradually I started gathering up sticks, tidying up and snapping off. I got a sack and a pair of scissors and started after the tulips that had been so breathtaking only a week ago. Tut, tut. Here they were in masse, right in the front yard, stems pointing naked stamens into the air without their beautiful petal dresses. And next thing you know, they will have all of those yellowing leaves! What to do! Aha. I’ve seen gardeners who carefully fold tulip leaves over and fasten them with a rubber band. That way, they can be allowed to send the nutrients back down to the bulb and yet passers by aren’t offended by their less than spectacular state of being, and gardeners, in turn, can have a continuously splendid looking garden.
I was just considering this tedious solution to my in-between garden, when I was overwhelmed with nature’s metaphor. Nature doesn’t work with on-off switches, or a continuous motor. Nature is organic. It cycles, it flows. There is an ebb for every tide, a time of retreat and gathering of strength for every time of flowering. This continuous ebb and flow is vital in order to renew the energy required for a continuing cycle of life. And when it is interrupted, when the leaves are cut before they can become unsightly , the process is short-circuited. The bulb weakens and cannot produce the next season.
I sat down on the grass. Here was something for me. I have trouble with accepting the need for down time. I want to be a continuous switch, a peak producer with no valleys. I want relationships that get better continuously; I want to make continuous improvement myself with no temporary backsliding. I want to be able to jump up the minute after I am kicked in the stomach. I just don’t want to allow time to recover and take in strength. I want to be a non-stop flowering wonder. And I want every one else to be the same. No waiting around, no retreating, no awkward non-productive times.
And our expectations aren’t just about human growth. We want companies that post continuous gains—every single quarter. We want countries that have been under totalitarian governments for decades to become smoothly functioning democracies in a matter of months. We elect officials and want them to change everything before the next election.
We want spiritual maturity, now. We want to be able to forgive immediately, to be submissive without a struggle, to understand without having to quietly study, ponder, and live.
I looked at the tulips. And then I looked at myself and this world. It doesn’t make any sense. What are we thinking? Instant and relentless isn’t the way of eternity.
I’ve always wondered about the phrase "long-suffering." At first glance it seems to indicate that being miserable for a long period of time is some kind of virtue to seek after. I don’t think so! Then, what could it mean? Perhaps "suffering" in this phrase could be interpreted to mean "allowing", as in "suffer the little children." Perhaps the Lord sees "allowing time—allowing a long time" as a sorely needed virtue.
Could we allow time for our children to learn the lessons of life? Could we allow ourselves time to recover from periods of difficulty—time to grieve, time to heal, time to gather strength? Could we allow societies time to change and grow; businesses and ideas time to change and grow; individuals time to change and grow; relationships time to change and grow?
I looked at the tulip leaves again, beginning to yellow and wilt and saw them differently. I can respectfully allow them some time. In fact, I can celebrate while I wait with them. My garden will gently call to those who walk by, "Pardon us, but good things are happening. We are gathering nourishment and preparing quietly for more glory."
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