Advent 8 – Paperwhites

Written as part of an Advent Daily Devotional for the UCC in Wallace, ID

It’s been years, but I remember buying bulbs, arranging them with small stones in a bowl, adding water and then sitting back and waiting to have me some spring. And in the thick of winter, no less. Heavenly! The smell, the look, the life and hope all working together to lighten the deadening cold and eternal dark outside. What a way to shift the scenario and write the script to my comfort.

Because I’m inclined to hold on to anything that has potential for another cycle of use, I kept those bulbs through spring and summer, and planted them outside when fall came around. Let’s see if these will grow… Crocus came and went. Tulips surfaced. Daffodils sprouted, filled out and blossomed, but no paperwhites. The soil covering them remained flat, brown and lifeless. Another year, I side-stepped the frozen tundra and mid-January brought back the bowl, stones, bulbs and water and waited for signs of life to appear in the kitchen. Again nothing. It’s true what they say: bulbs forced to life inside aren’t likely to bear again. Not only do they need the nutrients held by the soil, but they also depend on time spent in the deep freeze. Quiet, dormant time of being held in the dark and cradled in the cold renews their life and restores their beauty.

I’m willing to sacrifice some bulbs to ease the crawl of winter, but I wonder what the cost is to the soul that seeks to bypass the wait, the cold, the dark, the struggle. We’ve come to expect comfort and fun; what does that cost us in rich fragrance and bright colors? What depths of life and love, creativity and compassion, promise and peace just might be available to us if we were more willing to hunker down, look into the dark, hibernate through the cold, quarantine through the pandemic? It’s where bears are born, caterpillars become butterflies, daffodils are reborn. Just what new life might be waiting for us?

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