I have heard many plant metaphors about how a seed has to die and be buried in the dark so that it can sprout. I know that bulb flowers go dormat and return. I have preached about the mystery of life coming from death. But recently, knowing these things in my mind has not been much comfort as darkness closed in around me. This year when Lent began, so did a series of hard, painful occurrences. And somehow as I was walking through the darkness, it just wasn’t enough to know that out of death comes life. I needed to see it.
When my son was born my next door neighbor brought over a beautiful red amaryllis in a big pot. The flower stood bright and noble on its long stalk, greeting me each morning from my back patio. As the months wore on and so did my newborn exhaustion, the petals fell off and the stalk drooped but the bottom leaves were still green and vibrant. Sometimes as I passed by the thought would occur to me, “I should look up how to care for that thing before I kill it” and then I would be on to the next task, forgetting my beautiful gift.
When winter hit we had much more rain than our drought-ridden California city is used to. The green leaves got pounded and limped sadly over the edges of the pot. Sometimes I would wonder if I should bring it in the house. Then again, I would move on to the next thing.
When the sun came out again I could tell my amaryllis was officially dead. The sad, droopy leaves turned yellow, still hanging over the edge of the pot. The soil was now dried and cracked. On my way out the door each morning I thought to myself, “I need to throw that thing out and use the pot for something else.” Practically every day I would think, "I need to throw that droopy thing away."
One day during this time my neighbor, who had gifted me the plant, stopped by. “My amaryllis is sprouting,” she told me. “How’s your’s doing?” With a bit of shame, I told her, “I killed it.” She hunched her shoulders, knowing that I didn’t have her gardening chops and continued on about how beautiful her plants were. Still each day, I meant to throw mine out.
Then the week from hell hit. You know the kind of week I’m talking about, when each day you get a call about another tragedy unfolding in your family and community. Every day it felt like death and separation punched me in the gut. At the end of the week I was longing to see resurrection and renewal. I felt like I was swimming in brokenness and the life raft of hope promised by my faith was nowhere in sight. There was so much hurt, could beauty come from those ashes? My people were grieving. Could mourning really turn to dancing? I told a friend, “I want to see that what we believe is really true. Can things really be made new?”
And then Sunday morning came dark and early as my son beckoned me out of bed before dawn. When he’s cranky we go outside and look at our flowers and there, lo and behold, was a bright green amaryllis sprout, pregnant with a flower. It was still closed up tight but it was healthy and plump, already standing out of the dirt. I was amazed. It was enchanting. My son and I stared at it and as he tried to touch it, I batted his hand away, feeling so protective of this miracle in front of me. My proof of renewalMy sign of resurrection.
This plant had looked so dead. I was convinced of it. And to see it come back to life brought tears to my eyes. It was incredible. What a miraculous mystery. It was one thing to know it to be possible but another thing completely to see it before my eyes.
My flower preached me a sermon that dark Sunday morning. It gave me the hope that I needed. All things are being made new. Look! See the amaryllis. Consider the lilies of the field. There is no need to worry.