I’m engrossed in trying to paint thanks—filling this need inside of me for color when something behind me falls from the shelf with a clatter. I startle and turn to see my amaryllis on the floor—the bulb my pastor gifted me with for Christmas; the one that whispers red joy to me each time I pass it by, the one whose full blooming glory I’ve been waiting for. Just this morning I noticed that the palms of all four flowers were open wide—finally—and it made me so happy and I thought, “My, that thing is tall. I will need to stake it soon.”
Too late now.
There is peat moss all over the floor and when I gently lift the hollow stems I see that one of the blooms has snapped off clean. The bulb has pulled up out of the dirt and I pile the loose soil back around its base and lean its now lopsided frame against the shelf. I have no idea if it will survive.
It seems the last tiny straw in a series of backbreaking bales and I sit in the floor and pluck at peat moss that has settled in the cracks of the wooden floor. Life has been such a struggle lately and can’t I just have this one moment of joy—dipping my fingers in the paints and letting my mind see what I want them to become?
It’s hard work to grab for this joy when the studio is the dining room table and dipping in means a constant rearranging of the necessary things. I have to fight for joy—have to want it enough to do the hard work of stepping out of the norm. And it is hard work—isn’t it easier to step around my box of watercolors every day, to think one day I’ll have time for these things?
But this afternoon I choose joy and I am smack dab in the middle of it when that mean old devil has to make a mess of everything. Dabbing at loose dirt with a damp paper towel, I remember what that famous demon Screwtape said to his nephew Wormwood. "The safest path to hell is the gradual one," he said, as he instructed the novice in a demon's best strategy: to befuddle, confuse, and eventually corrupt. They say the devil is in the details, and it has been all these little things lately that seem to torment.
I feel befuddled and confused. Lord, have mercy.
I sit in the floor and hold the gracefully turned funnel of an amaryllis bloom in my hand. The red of its petals is soft like velvet and there is a small tip of white on the point of each. Yellow flecks of pollen are scattered along the red and I lift it gently to my nose. The scent is faint but sweet and it stirs an ache inside of me.
This week marks the start of the Lenten season and I feel the bright sadness. All these little deaths are reminding me…reminding me of how waiting can prepare the heart. Tomorrow, we will receive the ashes and remember how we died with Christ—how we must die a little every day.
I rub my finger across undulations of softly rippled petals and remember what Jesus said.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Isn’t this our story? Isn’t where the Lenten journey must take us?
We are a resurrection people.
This is the joy we hold onto in the journey to the cross. This is the joy we fight for.
I water the amaryllis and stake her tall scape. Then I go back to the paints.