Spring has finally decided to settle itself into the far reaches of Northwest Ohio.
It is a much more patient wait here than it was growing up outside of St. Louis. But just like anything that requires patience, the wait is worth it! After the long months of winter, colors begin to protrude out of every nook and cranny, from garden beds to sidewalk cracks, vibrant greens with splashes of the happiest yellows and oranges and purples and reds.
Tulips are my favorite. They always have been. They seems so dignified, but also have a certain weakness about them. They bloom bright and fast, but only last so long. You turn around once and the petals lie on your dining room table, leaving you wondering what in the world happened. There’s a mystery to the tulip. She doesn’t give up her secrets.
I always thought that tulips were at their best, at their “peak” when they were in their tallest state, petals sharply at attention. The tulip has given up it’s tight grip of budding and opened to stand straight and tall. This is the tulip we see in childhood pictures and books. This is the shape of the tulip you can draw with ease for pictionary, a semi-circle on a stem with two peaks. Voila!
Then, I substitute taught as an aide for the preschool class at my children’s school. Nothing changes your life perspective like 20 three and four year olds. One Monday, we went on a walk to look for spring things:
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, look at this! I found a beautiful rock!”
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, look at this leaf!”
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, did you see my new tennis shoes?!”
Joy abounded in every sight, sound, and touch. The first class took their walk at 10am-ish. The tulips were a favorite find for everyone. They were colorful and stately, just as I expected them. The second class took their walk around 1pm. There was oodles of sunshine, the temperature was perfect. The teacher led the class right by the tulips, and I was shocked to see this:
And then I realized, this is how a tulip is supposed to look.
This is the moment in time the tulip was made for. Bright and fresh, yes, but more than that…wide open to the sun and the life giving rain, and the day bright and fresh.
The tulip was wide open to opportunity and the vibrancy of life and whatever was coming next. Next might be eyes that look upon it with fascination or it might be preschool fingers that pluck it up without thinking of the consequences.
Friends, we were meant to be wide open.
In 2 Corinthians 6:11, Paul shares some wisdom:
We have spoken freely to you,Corinthians; our heart is wide open.
Jesus was full of wide open moments, not the least of which is found in Mark 1:9-10:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Jesus tears open the heavens for us. He gives us a life that can be open to risk and relationship and meaning because He is in it. In His incarnation, He took the risk to be with us. In His baptism, He took the risk to show us Who He is. In His death and resurrection, He risked it all…for relationship with us.
When Jesus heals in Scripture, the language is openness…
the eyes of the blind are opened
the tongues of the mute are opened
the ears of the deaf are opened
the wombs of the barren are opened
the tombs of the dead are opened
We can live as closed people, and God will not love us any less, tight as a bud, fending off risk and harm.
We can live as partially opened people, and God’s grace will be the same for us. Open to stateliness, as centuries, guarding our tender centers, sharing beauty, but never quite letting all of ourselves be known.
Or we can also live as open people. We can bloom and blossom and let the sun, as well as the rain, all the way in. We can open our hearts wide to His people. We can forgive and love unabashedly.
I marched my children out to that tulip after school. I wanted them to learn a life lesson that I had embraced far too late.
People are always worth it.
Nothing is quite as beautiful as a flower fully bloomed with the sunlight kissing each and every petal. We are in this beautiful life together.