I remember a hand-painted sign in England, planted in a lush field of green and purple and yellow: Don't Damage the Daffs and Don't Crush the Crocuses.Daffodils and crocuses are the harbingers of spring. Don’t crush the hope of spring. Don’t damage the blossom of new life. Living by faith means there are future blossoms for Christians whose hope for mercy has been damaged or crushed.
In my New England garden, tulips are the floral forerunners of spring. But in the dead of winter, nothing is in bloom. During one winter cold snap with high temperatures peaking to 10 degrees, Rich surprised me with flowers. He plunged a stiff bundle of yellow tulips inside a blue vase. Their petals were cinched tight by the cold. When I awoke the next morning, the petals were still pursed, unwilling to open and kiss the dawn. Days passed, but the tulips persisted. They refused to open even a smidgen and release their sweet, subtle scent. Sometimes I wonder why God won’t open up and pour forth the fragrance of his mercy. He’s waiting. He’s withholding. He’s tight-petaled.
By the end of the week, the tulips had been forgotten and the only fragrance in the house was the smell of taco meat simmering in the pan and permeating every nook and cranny of our home. The kitchen was in full swing and I was head cook. We topped our shells with mounds of cheese and a heaping side of suppertime insanity. The dogs and the cat played a wild game of tag under our feet. The kids raced back and forth fetching balls and Lego and army men and spelling homework. Rich and I barked out orders to insubordinate soldiers. The scene was uncivilized. We were waiting to hear from the doctor about one of our son’s lab results. He had lost eight pounds in three months and complained of belly pain. I wedged an old-fashioned water bottle between the curve of my back and the back of the chair. My back had gone out doing something heroic and meaningful. Not really. I was sitting in bed and I reached to pull the covers up. My back protested and punished me. Someone dropped a glass. It was a circus.
Then the red-cheeked little one zoomed by and crashed onto my lap like a wave of fury on an unsuspecting shore. My back jolted. He wagged a pudgy pointer finger in the direction of the blue vase: “Mom, look! Your tulips hatched.”
The whirr of the carnival circled around me like a carousel, but I couldn’t hear it any more. The flowers had hatched. And that made me smile. I smiled because I loved that he said ‘hatched.’ I smiled because he was a red-faced, sweaty bundle of little boy. I smiled because he was aware of what would make me smile. Hatched tulips will always make me smile.
And I remembered that even in the roar of the uproar, tulips still hatch.
When I least expect it, the tulip hatches. And God’s mercy blooms.