I love bright colours. They are cheerful and they make me happy. I love splashes of colour here and there and everywhere. Colours everywhere – my clothes, my car, the walls of my house. But if there is one colour I can’t stand, it’s grey. I know technically it is not even a colour, it is just a shade. But I can’t stand it, and I know I am one of the few people out there in the world, since everything seems to be grey these days. But there you have it. I hate grey.
It’s coming to that time of year when all you see is grey. I’m not just talking about paint colours or clothing. I’m talking about the skies, the roads, the snow banks. Spring is coming, but until then, soul sucking grey everywhere. Blah.
Every year at this time of year, my husband will buy me a bouquet or two of cheery tulips just to get me through to next few weeks. They are my absolute favourite flower, even more than roses or lillies. They can be pink, purple, red, orange – the colours don’t really matter, I love them all. Why? Because to me, tulips are the first fruits of spring. Tulip bulbs are hearty and live deep within the earth all winter long. And then, slowly peek out of the ground, sometimes even through the snow.
After the tulips come the buds on the trees, the melting snow, the sweet songs of birds. But first, the tulips. It’s like a sweet little sign that more is coming. But after a long, cold winter – the first sign of spring is the sweetest.
I am so thankful that God created tulips. They bring me out of the grey every single year. Sometimes when I look at the world and all that He created, I wonder what His favourite is. Maybe it’s not tulips, or even a flower. Maybe it’s sky and space, in all of it’s magnitude and ever changing expanse. Maybe it’s the sea and all that is in it – the coral reef and all it’s beauty, or the hundreds of thousands of creatures that He’s created to live within it. Maybe it’s the trees that stand strong in the forest, and the leaves that change their shape and colour to every changing season. I think of all that He is created, and I am humbled to know that the answer isn’t any of those things. It’s us. You and me.
In James 1:18, James says ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” Like the tulips, being the first and sweetest part of spring. Or the juicy red strawberries in the summer. The first bite of an apple during the harvest. Or the very first snow of the season. Out of everything that He created, He created us to be the first, the best and the loveliest.
Like a tulip bulb is firmly planted in the fall, we can firmly plant His word in our hearts. Like the tulip bulb is watered and nourished during the long winter months while hiding under the ground, so our hearts are watered and nourished by the word of God in our lives. But in order to really grow, in order to push through the hard soil like the tulip, we need to do one more thing. And if we’re honest, sometimes this can get missed.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:19-27
We can’t just listen to the scriptures, or read the Bible and then be done with it. Otherwise, we would be like a tulip that never flowers.
A few years ago, the school my children attended was having a fundraiser by selling seeds. I looked through the catalogue to see if there was anything that I might be interested in buying. Let me just start and say that I am not a gardener, in any way shape or form. You can read more about my black thumb here. But I thought I would go ahead and give it a go since it was for a good cause. So I ordered a bag of tulip bulbs from each of my boys. They happily dropped them on the kitchen table when the order arrived and excitedly asked when I would start our garden. I said something like “someday soon” and it was soon forgotten by the promise of after school snacks. But then, I also forgot. And they got moved from the table to the counter. And then the counter to the top of the fridge. And there they sat for months and months. Okay, if I am being honest, it was probably a year. When I discovered them, the Mom guilt hit me hard so I went out in the pouring rain, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and I planted those bulbs. But when the winter came and went, the tulips never bloomed. I know that tulip bulbs are hearty, but I neglected them for a long time, and then hastily planted them in rocky soil that never let them take root.
If we lived our lives like that, neglecting being in the Word and then hastily spending a few minutes reading here and there – how would that take root? If we attend church and listen to the words but then forget them the minute we leave the parking lot – how will they take root? If we sit at a weekly meeting with our church friends, and listen to their prayer requests but never pray for them or try to help them in any way, are we really allowing the Word to take root?
Let’s be real for a minute. It is so very easy to pretend. To walk through life with the appearance that we are doing what is right, but then not really doing the right thing at all. Appearances can be deceiving – take it from someone who was a master deceiver for many years. It wasn’t until God intervened and softened my heart that things really change, allowing me to be able to have the opportunity to really let the Word settle in deep.
We need to be doers and hearers of the Word. The words that we read might just be words on the page to us unless we actually live them out. And here’s the thing – living them out is what makes us God’s first fruits of creation.
In Leviticus 23:9-14 we can read about the first fruits offering the Israelites were required to bring before the Lord. When the Israelites brought this offering to God, it became a pleasing aroma to him. I’ve often wondered about the term “pleasing aroma” and why a smell would make God happy. But at the heart of it all, it’s not the smell so much as what it represents – the Israelites obedience in doing what God had asked of them. If we do what God asks of us, by not only listening to the Word but also understanding it, it’s also pleasing to God.
When I get up close and take a whiff of the tulips, they smell pretty and give off a pleasing aroma. It makes me happy, but that’s not all that’s pleasing to me. I’m excited about the fact that they represent the season of spring which will soon come. The Hebrew word for first fruits is bikkurim which means “promise to come.” How fitting a word for us as we live out our faith right now? When we allow God’s Word to take root deep in our hearts, and we strive to live it out, we represent the firstfruits of creation. It gives us a glimpse at what is promised to come, when God’s Kingdom is revealed.
Every time I see a tulip, I’m going to be reminded that I’m one of God’s favourite creations. But I’m also going to use tulips as a reminder to be encouraged to actively live out what I’m reading in the Word. To be not only a reader, or a hearer – but to also wholeheartedly throw myself into doing whatever God asks of me. Spring is coming!