I’ve shifted one of the sprouting tulip bulbs from the windowsill to the desk where I’m writing. I need the reminder that God’s life-giving work in us is a process. God doesn’t expect me to bloom before my roots have gone deep and my shoots stretched up green, slowly unfurling toward His light.
I need this reminder over and over, especially when I find myself wrestling once more with old patterns, or wondering again about old beliefs.
At our church, the sermons these months have been from Mark, repeating again and again Jesus’ call to servanthood and sacrifice. And honestly? I’m finding that hard. I know it’s true, and I want to keep being called deeper into faithful living. But another part of me—the part that is tired—wants to curl up and cry. That part easily slips into the shame that comes with feeling I should do more, be more, be better. And then it feels guilty about feeling ashamed.
It’s that part that needs the tulip’s many reminders: first, that life and its growth is a process; second, that the outward work must always rise from what is unseen. Blooms don’t come without roots; servanthood, to be both true and sustainable, must always arise from making my home in Christ’s love.
That part needs this reminder too: discipleship is not one-size-fits-all, but uniquely tailored to our own particular life stories, personalities, weaknesses, and strengths. We’re all called to make our home in God’s love, and to live out that love in service to others. But the details of the call vary from person to person and from one life stage to another.
God has spent over a decade calling me, through my limitations and Scripture and prayer as well as guidance from trusted fellow pilgrims, to rest in his love. He has showed me again and again that as I do that I’m enabled to love and serve others in ways I couldn’t otherwise do.
My pastor’s vocation, at least right now, seems to involve summoning us back to an awareness that discipleship involves sacrifice, and a willingness to pick up our cross and follow.
Both of these messages—resting, and stepping out; making my home in Christ’s love, and living that love out to others—are true, and both are important parts of discipleship. But this is what my heart needs to hear today: Just because someone else is receiving and proclaiming a complementary aspect of the truth doesn’t mean that what I’m hearing from God is wrong. It might simply mean that I’m focussing on the roots while someone else is showing the curled crimson edges of the fully open bloom.
The question to guide my life is how God is showing himself to me today. What is he calling me to, on this day, in this stage of my life?
As I listen and follow one step at a time, my eyes on Christ's face and my home more and more in God's love, I can be sure that the flower and fruit will come:
"And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him." (2 Cor 3:18,The Message, c.f. John 15:4-5)