by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM January 1, 2022
It’s a new year, arriving as one of the rituals of a new year begins: taking down the Christmas decorations. Keeping everything displayed until Epiphany or the Baptism of Jesus may be a more traditional practice, but I need to un-decorate whenever time is available, and so for me, that time is now.
Here’s the thing, though: with all the trimmings packed away, the room looks, well, bare. Gone are the sparkle, the bold red splashes of color, the outward signs of joy and celebration. There’s a longing in me to somehow compensate for that dramatic downturn in scenery.
Enter the season of the amaryllis. Every December, I purchase several bulbs as gifts for friends, and I include myself on that gift list. According to its box, this year’s blossom will have dainty red candy cane-like stripes on it. My affection for the amaryllis grows from the fact that, during winters in the Northeast often marked by dull landscapes and invisible gestation, I feel in my soul the need for frequent reminders that quiet growth is happening, even when I can’t see it.
As anyone who has watched an amaryllis sprout from its large bulb knows, its rate of growth is both astounding and eerie. Leave the plant for a few hours, and the light green stem will have propelled itself upwards several inches before your return.
As we observe the amaryllis’ inexorable and seemingly effortless movement upward, we may be hard pressed to find a parallel in the life of the spirit. With our own deep inner soul work, transformation often happens in increments at a glacial pace. Or it can feel as though nothing in us is changing for the good. Or that any tangible progress has halted and arrived at a permanent standstill. Or worse, that we’re tilting towards a backwards slide.
Fortunately, what the Holy One desires of us is our faithfulness, not our rapid and relentless “success.” With God’s grace, we make the big leap of faith that our daily practices of prayer and meditation make a difference. That our efforts to live compassionately and justly make a difference. That our seeking of spiritual guidance to discern where and how God is active in the stuff of our lives makes a difference. Even when, and perhaps especially when, we’re blind to the truth that, seen or unseen, the Holy One is present and grace is at work.
So this year, as the newly planted amaryllis hastens closer to full flowering each day, may we be reminded to activate gratitude for whatever is unfolding in our hearts. To engage in patient and active waiting. To apply Linda Myoki Lehrhaupt’s plant wisdom, soul wisdom, to our spiritual lives. In her book, T’ai Chi as a Path to Wisdom, she includes a chapter entitled, “Shouting at a bud does not make a flower blossom more.” Helpful wisdom to remember in our own lives as we enter 2022, a season of renewed hope and an invitation to fresh growth and grace in the company of the Holy One. May it be so!
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
If you have a blossoming houseplant or a photo of something about to bloom, place this in your prayer space. Gaze at this image.
What might be longing to unfold in your life as you stand at the edge of this new year?
Ask the Holy One for the grace to commit to whatever soul work is called for and to wait in patient hope.
Featured Image: Mihaly Koles, Unsplash
Happy new year! Thank you for following and commenting on Mining the Now through 2021. May the year ahead be filled with peace and good health for you and for all in our beautiful, yet wounded world.
I send you into 2022 with my prayer and my deep thanks and with the wisdom of Anne Hillman’s poem, “We Look with Uncertainty”:
We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.
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