Take a look at that amaryllis plant. Do you notice something strange about its appearance? Its skinny green stem shoots up over a foot while a fully formed flower sprouts straight from the bulb. This is not how an amaryllis is supposed to grow.
It should look like this:
The stems grow long out of the bulb before blossoming out of the top. This plant is well-developed and quite beautiful. There is even new growth sprouting up with the promise of more flowers. When the conditions are right, an amaryllis will bloom in a spectacular fashion.
Growing up in the “country” with a dad who kept a serious garden, I learned much about plant life. I learned the values of cultivating and appropriate watering. I learned that different varieties have unique needs when it comes to fertilization and sunlight. But I didn’t just receive an education on how to keep plants alive; that’s not the true purpose of a garden. The purpose of a garden is to produce fruit.
When I say fruit, I don’t just mean apples and oranges. I am referring to any desired product. So in the case of something like parsley or oregano, the fruit is in the leaves. With potato plants, the fruit is in the roots. The fruit of flowering plants, like that amaryllis, is the flowers themselves. Fruit is the reason you grow in the first place.
Plants do a curious thing when they are perfectly content. As my father says, “If a plant is too happy it will make a lot of nice looking leaves, but not much fruit.” He likes to recall the early years of his garden when his older neighbors would stop by to poke fun at him for his pepper plants. “Nice big plants you got there!”, they would say. My dad didn’t know at the time that it was possible for pepper plants to be too happy. He figured that if they liked a little fertilizer they must like a lot of fertilizer. But when the plants are living it up in comfort, they aren’t too concerned about making fruit. They’re like the grasshopper in that story with the ants. He lives in comfort all summer while the ants are storing for the winter, and when the winter comes he’s in a lot of trouble because he has no food. When you think about it, the whole reason a plant makes fruit is to pass its life to the next generation (or germination if you like). Fruit is evidence of a type of wisdom within the plant; a wisdom that prepares it for hard times ahead. Plants that are too content to make fruit are foolish, so to speak.
So what about that funny looking amaryllis plant? It was on track to grow normally until a small child (my cousin’s son, Sam) decided to test its durability. If you look at the picture you can see where the stem was bent, about a third of the way up. That unexpected calamity left the plant hunched over, looking sad and defeated. But over the next week the stem slowly straightened again, and a fresh blossom appeared out of the bulb. In no time at all a new flower bloomed at the base. This was how the amaryllis plant responded to adversity: to make fruit. With no care for its looks, or concern for being different from the other plants, it straightened up and turned tragedy into new life. Yes, it had to mature faster than it would have liked, but it had the wisdom to mature. And now that it has time to grow in a safe environment, I expected new growth to shoot up the way it was intended.
We all experience adversity, and it is how we respond to it that determines our outcomes. Will we learn from our pain and mistakes and grow in character, or will we let fear and bitterness keep us bent over and without fruit? Likewise, when the times are good and we are content, will we grow foolish and forget the fruit that our lives are meant to produce? Fruit like patience, kindness, courage, perseverance, discipline, and love. Wisdom cries out to us from many places: even a broken amaryllis plant.