It didn’t bloom last Spring, this tulip in its little pot. A stem came up with promising green leaves but no blossoms ever appeared. Perhaps the confines of the planter restricted its roots.What a sweet surprise to discover it pushing up through the soil a couple days ago. As I’ve been led recently to look at the shattering of shalom in my life, God is using this plant to speak to me. My heavenly Father has brought a lot of healing to my heart’s garden over the years. But I recognize that there are still constraints that choke my growth.
One of my earliest recollections of trauma involves the death of my sister, Debbie, at age four. I was born eleven months after her so we were very close. And yes, I remember her clearly. When she died, I was told that she’d gone to be with Jesus in heaven; my constant companion, my best and essentially only playmate, had left me behind. Such a time of confusion, bewilderment and the unfairness of it all. Then when I thought we were going to see her—it was the funeral we were going to but I didn’t understand what that was—and expecting to see Jesus too, because of being told earlier that’s where she’d gone, I was sorely disappointed that Jesus was only a painting on the wall, and my sister lay unresponsive and cold in a pretty box. I felt foolish for my beliefs and somehow thought I should’ve known. But how could I? I was only three years old.
I can see where this experience has led me to often see myself as left out, not worthy of being included. It seems silly, I know, to think of not dying as a message that I wasn’t worth including, but that is how my little three-year old brain worked. It was a lie I believed about myself and carried along with me, a box I restrained myself in. Also from this I can see where I hold myself away from whole-heartedly investing in relationship with loved ones because how could I stand it if they leave me behind too. Then there’s the sense of “I should’ve known” in any given circumstance where there really is no way for me to know in advance something that is beyond my comprehension.
Thankfully my Jesus is not confined to a painting. He was with me in that earliest time as He now is in this present time. The Holy Spirit has brought healing and will continue to do so. Fully experiencing the pain and sorrow and grief means that I will fully experience the joy He has for me. There is no shame in not knowing what is around the corner and failing to understand life and the confusing incidents in it. Like that little tulip in the planter on my balcony that didn’t reach its bloom last year but is poking its head up again this year, trying again for another chance, my heart is coming up through the grime of sorrow and finding a place of inclusion in His light. Shalom restored.