Last fall, I purchased a lovely bag of bright tulip bulbs. After planting them, I had high hopes of a seeing their beauty welcome spring into my backyard. Amazed by the process of it all, I began considering the lifecycle of these firm, little bulbs that I put into the ground.

After a little investigating, here’s what I learned. In order for the outer shell of the bulb to become so tough, the once blooming flower, impacted by the end of summer heat, sends all of its remaining energy down into the bulb, making it firm and ready for the chill ahead. We plant these little packages of stored energy underground to rest and go dormant.

BUT something IS happening while this bulb is resting. We can’t see it happening. There is no visual evidence, especially in New England buried under blankets of snow. But after some needed rest, the stored energy in the bulb begins to grow roots. Once the roots are firmly established, the bulb uses its last tiny bits of remaining energy to push the sprouted leaves up out of the soil and bud flowers, just in time to welcome a new season.

This simplified little science lesson can parallel our personal journey of maturing in our faith. Just as we plant a bulb for the purpose of seeing its colorful vibrancy fill our yard, it can be our tendency to crave the outward display of a life of faith – to speak kindly out of love, to exude patience, to administer wisdom, to walk fully in our spiritual gifts.

But often times, it’s the “stuff” that’s going on in the dirt that determines our ability to bloom well, to reach our full potential. Winter dirt, like our hearts at times, can be hardened, filled with “little rocks” of pride and “roots” of resentment. We can even experience dryness from seeking to go, go, go and get it all done without taking the needed time to be watered and refreshed.  To overlook these things and hurry on past will result in sprouts that never fully bloom. Before we can anticipate and expect a harvest of beauty outwardly, we cannot neglect to do a little digging and needed growing on the inside. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

When we welcome God into our “dirt,” He may lovingly reveal some necessary tilling and pruning. He may point out areas where you need to begin trying less in your own efforts and relying more on His strength. Whatever it may be for you, I promise, this work on your heart will reap a harvest that only multiples in beauty over the years, just like I hope my tulips will.

Let’s not just live only for the outward prize, those things the world values and acknowledges. Let’s also willingly greet the “winter” seasons of life as an opportunity for growth on the inside, with firmer, more established roots in Christ Jesus.

Let your roots grow down in him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:7