Saturday, February 23, 2013
Bloom in Winter
How many times have I written that? But it is the truth. I am finding seminary in mid-life a hard thing to do. Each week (sometimes each day), I pick myself up from the ground, wash away the dirt, and start again. Deep breath, chin up, God is able, now go!
Friends tell me I am brave, but I never feel that way. I am compelled to do this for reasons I cannot explain, and very concerned because I know full well how inadequate I am. I am getting through it with a breath of a prayer -- that God is able to use a fading, middle-aged woman, that every soul is worth his investment.
Have you ever noticed how little, accidental things people say can make you ache? Today, I felt all of my inadequacy. Oh, I had known it all week, but today was a series of scenes displaying my vast need and unfinished places. God help me.
It was a cold, raw day. With rain coming straight at my face. But I stepped out anyway, because disappointment was making my feet move. I put on a long, ugly raincoat that made me look fat. Who cared? And I took a black umbrella to match my mood. Outside the blast hit me and chilled me in a minute. Penetrating doesn't begin to explain.
I was on the old campus in town. I stumbled along red brick walks buckled by tree roots. Bare branches overhead. Puddles in the hollows. Then I noticed yellow daffodils like bright stars on wet lawns. And camellias, bravely waving red, rose, and white, in the corners. I went closer. There was only hush of rain and wind. In the shrubbery were nestled lush blossoms with a quiet elegance I might not have noticed, bent over from their exuberant fullness, cold drops shining on them like crystals.
Some petals had fallen on the walk, after yesterday's hard freeze.
"Does that diminish their beauty?" The thought was distinct.
No. They were gorgeous -- even more for their sturdy insistence. They would go on blooming, regardless, their silken petals in colors so deep, catching rain like fire. And I reached out to touch them.
"Bloom in winter."
I almost turned around at the thought so distinct, it might have been spoken aloud. And the tight place in my chest relaxed. I wasn't cold anymore.
Coming back, I met a young bride picking her way up the brick walk under a pink umbrella, her gown glowing like lamplight, her face shining with anxious love. She was breathtaking, a vision of tenderness.
"One day, Lord. One day, we will have a wedding, won't we?" And I was smiling under my black. It rose up in my soul like a hymn from the rain-soaked ground, Yes.
Then I was back inside, peeling off dripping layers, and reaching for a large cup of tea.
Photograph of me in Charleston, touching a camellia, November 2011.