Tulips don’t last long around here. Heavy honeysuckle drooping from above and a thicket of brush below makes the perfect habitat in which rabbits thrive. They come each April and tear through the backyard, nibbling to the dust tender shoots that are just beginning their spring stretch to the sun. After 7 years of battling, I finally quit trying to plant new bulbs and gave up as the old ones withered away from gnawing. All were lost, except for that one determined bulb by the side of the shed. This year it once again fearlessly pushed up with new hope. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what color it was….pink? orange? purple? It had never grown full enough for me to know. Until this year.
This year, I decided to come alongside the tulip and wage war with chickenwire. I fashioned a cage of sorts around the stem and staked it secure with some garden supports. I was determined that this spring, I would enjoy that lone tulip and find out what splash of color I had been deprived of for so many years.
I was pleased that the cage was holding firm in spite of the early spring winds. The rabbits seemed to be busy elsewhere, too. But I couldn’t stop fretting about the growing tulip and so when I saw that it was just about to bloom, I decided to bring it inside to enjoy on the kitchen window sill. In Grandma’s pink vase, the bud curved toward the light as I hoped eagerly for pink or peach, or a nice purple or yellow.
The next morning, I came downstairs for breakfast and to my great dismay, the tulip had indeed opened. Like a teacup flooded with blood. Bright red blood. The color I least enjoy in spring’s palette. There’s just something about a bright red splotch meddling with the pastel pinks, purples and fresh greens of spring that rubs me the wrong way. I want to pare it out, like a bruise on a banana. Red is too fevered, too ignited for spring. A summer color? Yes. Pant with the marigolds and petunias around the mailbox post and wait for the watering can. Retreat to the fall? Please. Join the seeping green pigments that fade into the saffron and carnelian of autumn. Only kindly let this season of new life ease in with the shades of chicks and lilacs.
As I looked at the unfurled tulip with my own lips pursed tight, I decided to make the best of the situation by taking a few snapshots. At least I could practice with the different settings on my camera and find what the morning light might reveal. And what a revelation was in store! Snapping away at upward angles, I realized that the harsh red interior I saw while looking down was actually wrapped in a beautiful melon exterior that could only be seen when looking up. As the shutter clicked, my sharp thoughts began to soften. Disappointment gave way to appreciation. In the end, I took one of the most graceful photos I’ve ever captured. Grandma would’ve been so pleased to see her vase holding such a lovely flower.
Ultimately, the rescue of the red tulip was really a rescue of vision. It became apparent to me that when I spend my time looking down on situations, I’m bound to get caught up in dusty, dried out thinking. Looming over my days with a heavy head, I only see where the rabbits have nibbled me to the dirt. And with the sun at my back, I cast shadows onto the very life I am hoping to see flourish. But as I turn my angle, point my eyes upward and get a face full of His light, I find so much worthy of praise. The views that await me when I choose that gaze are hidden treasures that not nearly enough of us ever encounter.
Do we desire the beautiful life? It’s there, already purchased and ready to be lived. But the claim check is a turn of the head, away from the earth and toward heaven. Followed by a turn of the heart, away from thoughts that shelter privation and toward an expectation of the unlimited goodness of God.
Luke 13: 10-13
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.