Stop and Smell the…Lilacs?

About six years ago, I went to the annual flea market in the Shipoke historic district in Harrisburg. It’s a well known neighborhood, set along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Very picturesque.

I wasn’t on the lookout for anything in particular, but when I happened upon a local service club selling all sorts of small plants, it struck me that I had always wanted a lilac bush. They had them. I bought one, brought it home and have been lovingly caring for it every since…even though it doesn’t give me what I want. Lilacs.

The bush itself thrives. Deep green leaves. Plenty of branches to support a bevy of lilacs. But alas, each spring, despite all the reading, mulching, composting, and pestering of local experts that I’ve done, the bush that looks good on the outside gives off few blooms. Last year, it was five in total. I’m not kidding.

A few days ago I again went round to my local garden center desperate for some good horticultural advice. I was directed to some type of potassium fertilizer that supposedly will do wonders for lilac blooms…next year. Seems like I missed my opportunity with the potassium, as it needs to be added in the fall, and not the spring. I will need to be patient, said the guy depositing the 5lb bag of pellets into my now drooping arms.

Patience. The magic word. One of the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit. And I seem to have precious little of it. And not the least when it comes to the lilac.

I am in a personally difficult place in my 45 years right now. I’ve been struggling with that for a year now, and despite prayer and perseverance, if not some downright, unabashed pouring out of my soul and pleading to God, I am not feeling any closer to resolution in my situation. In fact, I am feeling quite empty, more times than not.

I read a book this past summer by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Sue Monk Kidd. It’s a reflection on her own personal crisis of several years ago, and how she worked through it to understand the process for getting to patience. And one of the things I have learned is that patience is not something most of us have; it’s actually something we need to seek. And unsettling as it may be to admit, it is not something that can always be achieved, or rather it may be that we can’t manipulate the process itself.

Both possibilities scare me. I want life to be principled and tidy; I don’t do well with mess, and inside I feel very messy, very unpatient-like. It’s like my inner soil is deplete of the nutrients needed for growth. On the outside I look okay, but on the inside there’s dormancy, and I know that God knows it. He sees my struggling, I’m sure of it, but I can’t embrace the comfort of that, no matter how much reading and pestering of experts I do.

On Saturday I took a long look at my lilac tree with its fat green buds aligned up and down its branches. Whatever actual blooms there will be this year have already formed. I counted seven—two more than last year. I will need to wait until fall to do the next round of ministering to my love/hate relationship with my lilac.

Patience is a dear thing. I am hopeful that, like Kidd, I will find my way through all this, without trying to manipulate the process.

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Do you need to work hard toward patience. Post your comment below and let me know.

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