The Lone Tulip

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. —Galatians 6:9 NIV 

I noticed it one spring day coming up the driveway after work: a lone, bright red tulip swaying in the breeze in front of the stone foundation.

“Where did that come from?” I wondered. I’d given up planting flowers—or anything, for that matter—because either the country critters consume them or our stubborn soil defeats their efforts to grow and blossom.

Then, slowly, a memory surfaced: About twenty-some years earlier, I’d ordered a hundred spring bulbs from a seed catalog and planted them in a stone-bordered circular flower garden in the front yard. My dream was to have some kind of flower in bloom all through the growing season. 

With the exception of the marigolds, though, few seeds I planted even sprouted, and what did struggled to survive. Those bulbs I planted with so much hope ended up in some deer’s stomach. 

But where did this lone tulip come from? In my sketchy memory, I thought I’d planted them all in the circular flower garden. 

“I must have planted a few along the foundation,” I reasoned.

I’m not an expert, so I have no idea how or why, after more than two decades, that lone tulip pushed up out of nowhere through the spring soil and now stood tall and proud in the soft spring sun. 

But I thought about that lone tulip and what it could mean. I thought of the seeds I’d planted in service to Him, hoping they would someday come to fruition. How many had sprouted? How many were growing in their faith? Thriving? How many were serving God? Of the ones I knew, very few. How disheartening! To think you pour your heart and soul into something or someone, and, like my failed flower garden, nothing grows. Were all my efforts in vain?

Sometimes we get too caught up in results, in numbers, in feedback. The business world tells us to put our efforts where we know we get results. But God’s service is not the business world. I thought of the greatest seed-planter in the Bible—Paul. He wasn’t caught up in the numbers game. He knew what his job was and kept his focus on that.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow,” he wrote (1 Corinthians 3:6).

It’s hard being on the front lines of service. In this results-and-rewards-minded world, it’s difficult not to evaluate our efforts by the outcome. But God tells us not to look at results but to keep our eyes fixed on Him (Hebrews 12:1–4). 

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm,” Paul wrote. “Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

 When I’m feeling like I’m a failure in Your service, Lord, remind me that You are the One who makes my life’s garden grow. Give me the strength and fortitude to keep on planting, even if I don’t see the blossoms until eternity. Amen.

MORE TEA: Read and reflect on Psalm 126:5–6.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

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