I was recently given paper white lily bulbs, which I of course assumed were amaryllis bulbs and wrongly thanked the giver. It was a thoughtful gift and one that has become increasingly meaningful over time.
Despite my lack of botanical prowess, the paper whites have served as my teacher.
One evening, I was feeling particularly reflective and I considered the bulbs. They were round and secure. They were hard and in many ways seemed impenetrable. I thought about the process of blossoming and immediately resonated with the concept. These bulbs were a metaphor for the stage of life in which I found myself.
I pulled out my journal and began to reflect on the process of blooming.
1. To bloom something has to be rooted. Life starts below the surface.
2. To grow roots, the hard, round ball opens to a small tether which winds its way through the surface below.
3. The soil in which the roots tether is important for life to continue to emerge from the bulbs.
4. Once secure, the bulb knows a second breaking, or emersion, takes place. This is much more visible, for this breaking takes place atop the bulb, above the surface. The bulb opens and new life grows.
5. The new life is small, it’s vibrant in color, it’s fragile, it’s seemingly raw and is exposed. What once was safe, secure and hidden now is opening to the visible world; breath taking in one sense and entirely vulnerable in another.
6. Every day this new life shoots up with such speed that at times it feels as if one could watch them grow. Growing is natural, yet, growing needs the elements of the sun and water to grow tall. Light draws out life as the small green shoot extends itself toward the sun.
7. Soon the long, green, vibrant, raw, exposed and small shoot grows a bud. This bud is evidence of another emerging and in someways, another breaking. The bud is thick compared to the green shoot on which it thrives. It continues to grow in width until the bud can no longer take the pressure.
8. The beauty of the bloom unfolds with delicate precision. Each petal stretches, reaching towards the light and with each movement, her beauty is exposed to the watching world. Her beauty is not perfect. In fact the petals are scrunched together and they look a bit messy. But it’s in the mess of blooming that beauty is seen and the flower is exposed.
I have journeyed with these bulbs. I have so deeply identified with each phase. I have learned that blooming is much more vulnerable than I ever could have imagined. And vulnerability… well, it’s much more exposing than I thought.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve hid in their felt unacceptability and they covered their nakedness, their vulnerability, out of shame. Since that time, humanity has sought to cover and hide. And yet, life, love, acceptability, and beauty are found in emerging and exposure, as they are drawn out by the light of life.
As I write today, from my coffee shop booth, I feel the vulnerability of raw exposure. I ask myself a set of questions: What is the fear in blooming? What has kept me from blooming? What is that which screams at me to dive back into the warm, secure, protected shell of the bulb? What feels the most raw in the process of blooming? When am I tempted to cover in shame, to go to the dark of my secure bulb?
A list forms in my head.
I feel tears form and my heart aches. Blooming holds the beautiful pain of vulnerability.
I invite Jesus, the Light which draws out life, to hold me as I emerge, extend and expose.
A simple gift has become the most profound of teachers. I am thankful for the lessons learned and a metaphor that will continue to guide me as I navigate these days of reaching toward light.