I was listening to the Garden Show on the radio in the car one Saturday morning this spring when someone called to inquire about planting the tulip bulbs they just bought. The garden expert tried to be nice. She said, "I can’t imagine where you found those bulbs this time of year because tulips must be bought and planted in the fall. Sorry, it is too late to enjoy the flowers this year. Tulips need to go through the cold winter months before they will bloom."
I know this all too well. Many a fall I have procrastinated tulip planting only to have the bulbs rot in the garage. Once I dug up some tulips after they bloomed planning to replant them in a new spot in the fall but it never happened. When I procrastinate and spring comes I am sorry and sad but there is nothing I can do then.
That is why last October when Mike and my boys were carrying boxes into the new house I was planting tulips in a little garden space in the front yard. I bought 70 or so bulbs at Costco and I knew when spring arrived I would be longing for those blooms.
I worried about the bad soil I was planting them in and the northern exposure with its lack of sun. But I went forward in faith. A large iceberg formed in that planting area staying all winter and part of the spring. When it finally melted there was not even a tiny sign of growth. I felt discouraged—those little shoots usually start up before it gets warm. Finally, well into April there were a few little sharp points poking through the soil. I saw full-grown tulips bursting in color everywhere else. My hope that they would ever bloom was faint. Weeks went by and they struggled along. The landscapers came to install the sprinkling system and tromped on some of the struggling growth.
Alas, by the middle of May my tulips started to bloom. Some of the blooms were small and I figured it was lack of sun. But then the yellow and red blooms got taller and bigger and reached forward for the sun. Some of the blooms were huge. Even the bruised plants had flowers. My neighbors have voiced awestruck enthusiasm for my tulips. Oh, ye of little faith. Doubt not fear not. Plant and God will take care of the rest but plant before the snow flies.
I can't just get up any day and expect faith to be there blooming. So, tulips are a metaphor for faith—believe, go to work early and then wait patiently. Endure the cold winters of adversity to get strength. "You have no witness until after the trial of your faith." Then show gratitude for the sweet blooms that reach for the "Son". The blooms [fruit] of the spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. (Galations 5:22)
Next year it won’t be so hard to believe the tulips will grow. That is how faith is. Once you have experienced the fruit it is easier to be patient the next time you need to exercise it. And I won’t need to replant the tulip bulbs for a few years. They are in the ground rooted as I hope my faith is rooted in my soul ready for when I need it.