"The JOY OF THE LORD is [my] strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).
I carried a beautiful bouquet of evergreens, seeded eucalyptus, and winter berries showcasing one exquisite amaryllis down the aisle the day I wed my sweetheart. It was bound in wood and grapevine twig. I had spent hours searching for and cutting out pictures I loved, choosing the exact greenery I desired, and falling in love with the perfect winter flower—a large white amaryllis. Several months before our marriage, I met with my florist and handed her my folder of ideas—relying upon her expertise and creative hand to make my dream a reality. She seemed to like what I had put together and was very confident about pulling it off. She did. It was everything I wanted it to be. I was so very happy to be Kevan’s bride!
The amaryllis flower grows from a bulb and is usually seen standing very tall in the middle of January…in direct sunlight…on someone’s warm kitchen windowsill (or any warm windowsill for that matter). It requires warmth and light for it to bloom in the bleak mid-winter. And is very stunning and delightful to behold during months with snow on the ground…something green on the inside when all of outside nature has gone dormant.
When my husband and I got back from our honeymoon we were met with a sweet surprise. My father came to our little home bearing the bulb of our wedding amaryllis. Our florist had ordered the plant in advance of our big day so that it would grow and bloom just in time for the ceremony. I hadn’t really thought about how they would procure the blossom I wanted so badly—that took planning on their part—and prayer, the florist admitted—they needed that bloom on a certain date, or they wouldn’t have an amaryllis for my bouquet.
“But then,” my father relayed to me, “what to do with the brown bulb that was shooting out another green stalk?” They had a great idea. They decided to give it to us. That seemed kinder than throwing it away.
We were delighted to see this brown bulb sitting on top of the dirt sending life up for the second time in the season. It was rather a novelty to have the actual plant used for our ceremony. This was our amaryllis. And we were quite proud to show it off. We liked to talk about it. But we had no direct sunlight to place it in…no warm windowsill to sit it on…and I did not know how in the world we would see another bloom—let alone four. But that is exactly what we had the joy of using for a centerpiece on our kitchen table for my birthday, January 17. A vase holding four blooms. We were amazed. In about three weeks’ time, the stalk grew to be almost a yard tall and the white flowers at the top were magnificent.
I watered it twice, I think. I took lots of pictures of its progress. I rested it on something solid when the weight would pull it down. Um, ya…that’s about the extent of any attention it received from me. And yet, we were rewarded for even those measly attempts at keeping it healthy.
I cut the flowers and made several pretty vases happy. I chopped the green stalk all the way down to the bulb. I quit watering it. I left town for 3 weeks. I commented several times on the dry nothing that was left when we returned…and wondered how long I should leave the basket of dirt in our living room before throwing it away or at least putting it somewhere dark and cool to go dormant. I wondered that for over a month and a half. No direct sunlight. No warm windowsill. No expectation to see it bloom again.
So what to my surprise?…but to go from a brown nothing to about an inch of bright green growth in one night!!! For yes, that is what I found happening in that pile of dirt just a couple mornings ago! And now that stalk is almost a foot tall. How in the world did that happen? I immediately watered it, of course, and felt bad for neglecting it all this time.
I am literally amazed at how much life can come out of seemingly nothing (to the naked eye). How strength can come shooting up out of no known nourishment—that little basket has had no direct sunlight now for three months…and no warm windowsill either. I know it "needs" both. And yet, now for the third time in three months, it’s doing it again…it’s becoming beautiful. That tells me that it was more than just a dry, brown bulb...it was still alive…relying on food and energy I could not see.
This has been a needed object lesson to observe, teaching sweet truths to my heart. I want to be a strong shoot for my Saviour. I want to blossom and give beauty. But I get so caught up, almost daily, with the reality of my very dry brown bulb planted in very dry brown soil—life’s circumstances, that don’t seem to give any nourishment or warmth my direction…at all! How can one thrive, grow…bloom in that? My natural man tells me over and over that it can’t. God is reminding me, yet again, through the simple display of nature that it can. And will.
I must dwell like the amaryllis bulb…in whatever “soily” circumstance He has seen fit to place me. Quiet. Content. Waiting to bloom, not whining because i'm not. That bulb was okay with being ugly, being disregarded, or thought to have no life left…! It was okay with that. It was even okay to be in the dark and not know the warmth of the sun. And, why? Because there really was life, it really was readying itself for another blooming cycle no matter what could be “proven” outwardly. That bulb showed life and strength solely from where it was drawing its health and energy. And you know what? I don’t notice the bulb anymore. I only gaze in wonder at the green stalk whenever I walk by…anticipating the joy of blooms…soon.
The miracle of life burst through the dry bulb when no one was looking—without any fanfare or formality. And it will continue grow even if I am not around to gaze at its beauty.
Nehemiah tells me that "the JOY OF THE LORD is [my] strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). Not MY joy, but His. There is a big difference between me and the LORD and there will be a big difference in my ability to produce if I am drawing on His joy or my own. Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, put it this way—“it is the consciousness of the threefold joy of the Lord, His joy in ransoming us, His joy in dwelling within us as our Saviour and His joy in possessing us, as His Bride and His delight; it is the consciousness of this joy which is our real strength. Our joy in Him may be a fluctuating thing: His joy in us knows no change.”
No matter where I am planted or how neglectful my soil seems I am alive in Christ I can grow and produce fruit. The strength I need to accomplish this comes from dwelling on the truth that the Lord has incredible joy IN me.
That is an amazing thought to ponder. But it is true—“the LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy…he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephania 3:17). And it is this joy—the joy OF the Lord for His own—that is our strength.
I am promised the same type of growth I see with my neglected, dry amaryllis bulb. In Isaiah 35 God is bringing comfort to His people who have weak hands, feeble knees, and fearful hearts—he tells them with exuberant speech that their lonely desert place will blossom as a rose and rejoice…“it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God” (Isaiah 35:1-4).
The Lord delights to do the seemingly impossible in a believer who has learned to be content and quiet in dry soil—gives strength and the ability to produce. And those that look on in wonder will “see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of [their] God” (Isaiah 35:2).
I look forward to enjoying an amaryllis blossom once again, very soon—a reminder of the joyful day I was married—but greater still, a reminder of God’s joy over me every single day I live, here now on earth and throughout all eternity. I will take the lessons I’ve learned from a dry, brown bulb and strive to be quiet and content while I wait on Him alone—while I wait for the green shoot to appear and transform into a plant that will blossom for His glory and honor.
"The JOY OF THE LORD is [my] strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).