“The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us.”- G. K. Chesterton
My wife Vicki’s favorite flower is the amaryllis. It is our annual tradition to pot an amaryllis bulb so that it will bloom during the Christmas season. This year we purchased a jumbo amaryllis bulb. But we were not prepared for the beauty that would unfold. The period from dormancy to initial bloom is approximately six weeks. Vicki and I watched with increasing anticipation as the flowering stalk rose steadily to a height of 32 inches. To our amazement, the protective case peeled away to reveal seven buds- one mature bud ready to open and six smaller buds, each patiently waiting to blossom in succession. When the fullness of time had come, all seven flowers combined to present a magnificent display (left-click on photo to enlarge).
Of all the possible options for achieving transformational spiritual growth, ministry downsizing or vocation loss would not come close to topping our list. Yet, as Jeff Manion observes in The Land Between, spiritual wholeness- becoming mature and complete (James 1:4)- can come through trusting God during a season of significant trial. That season of significant trial, Jeff explains, can produce unexpected, but necessary benefits:
” . . . often God leads us through the land we most want to avoid in order to produce the fruit we most desperately desire.”
Just as peat moss, water, and sunlight provide optimum conditions for the amaryllis’ incremental growth, incremental growth in our faith cultivated during tranquil times is foundational for transformational growth during desert, transitional times. Lukewarm or noncommittal effort serves only to curtail that growth. Evangelist Billy Sunday astutely stated almost a century ago: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”
Seeing the amaryllis complete its transformation from dormant bulb to full bloom was well worth the wait. While waiting is not an experience where we desire expertise, transformational growth cannot be rushed. It unfolds in God’s timing, as John Ortberg reminds us:
“Waiting is not just something we have to do while we get what we want. It’s part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”