A few weeks ago I flung open my lounge curtains to be greeted by a particularly miserable and rainy winter day. I groaned, knowing that we had about 20 people coming for dinner and there was no way I was going to avoid going to the shops.
A few minutes later, wrapped up in my winter warmers, I was beetling through the park when I almost tripped over a group of straggly and waterlogged kids. I sidestepped my little muddy friends, made it safely a short way down the path and turned around to see what exactly it was they were doing out in the pouring rain. After watching them diligently digging the lawn up I realised they were planting spring bulbs.
The little park in front of our house is nothing spectacular, but is a wonderful green oasis in this restless concrete jungle that is London. And one of my absolute favourite things about living on a park is the arrival of the spring flowers.
For most of the year the park just looks like one huge lawn, complete with soccer goals and playground. In the winter months the ground is either cold and hard, frosted over with ice, or under a few inches of water. But come spring, the ground explodes, seemingly from nowhere, with a circus of wild and hopeful colour.
When the spring bulbs push their heads up, our park is decorated with rivers of purples, yellows and oranges. I’m always amazed at how hard-packed and bland the ground looks before the flowers arrive. I forget that under my feet, all through the winter months, a little bulb has been getting ready to bloom.
Now back to my muddy little friends so happily tossing bulbs into the wintery ground.
As they scurried around, I was hit by an overwhelming thought. What if our crappy days, the ones where life feels really dark and cold and hard are just the flowerbed for our spring bulbs? Stick with me for a while.
Spring bulbs, or ‘hardy bulbs’ as they’re known to the flower savvy amongst us, need the cold winter months in order to bloom. They require a ‘sustained dormant period’ in order to develop strong root structures.
As all these thoughts collided in my head I felt a quiet voice whispering to me ‘You see? Hard, freezing conditions are needed for these little bulbs to blossom into glorious blooms. Isn’t that a glorious picture of life?’
As I stood in the pouring rain, tears threatening to spill over, I realised that maybe those days that felt overwhelming were just the groundwork for something beautiful to bloom. Maybe the grey and the cold and the winter days are just strengthening us up, letting us grow great roots. Maybe winter isn’t going to last forever. And even though all we can see right now is the hard, flooded ground, maybe there is a plan for those crappy days. Maybe they’re growing a beautiful, hopeful and colourful summer.
I started walking slowly towards the shops, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude at the kindness and intimate involvement of God. Grateful that he interrupted my busy and stressful day by throwing a couple of muddy kids in my path to slow me down enough to see the glorious message of spring bulbs in winter time. Thankful that he uses his creation around us to love us and speak to us.
And hopeful that winter will serve it’s purpose and that a colourful summer is on it’s way.