Tulips, not earthquakes

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

The thing I wish I'd known when I was a teenager is that earthquakes aren't the same as tulips.

Have you ever seen one of those nature programs on TV with the time-lapsed film of plants growing up through the dirt? When you first see it, you can't figure out what's going on. You might think a volcano was erupting. But all that's happening is a tulip bulb has sprouted and is working its way to the surface. The frozen, crusty soil of early spring is broken up by the power of the little flower making its path upward.

When desperate feelings tell you that suicide is the only answer, and especially if there's a temptation to plan secretly how to do it, the dirt of life is being mistaken for the beauty of your own being. How can we all admit more willingly that we are like the flower - with a destiny to be beautifully formed, glorious in color, able to brighten and bless other people's lives?

Right in the middle of the crush of circumstances and the intensity of emotional desperation, there's an invitation being extended to you: to be loved by God. Step by step we can learn to understand ourselves in relation to our divine origin.

The divine power that is the source of all life (and made you) tells you that you are precious, not worthless; essential, not disposable; approved, not rejected. Why is this true? Because God, the perfect Love, who is the source of all goodness in the universe, didn't make any junk. The God who made our original perfection still knows that perfection. And God intends us to know it as well.

The way this divine intention works is to make us feel rescued. This saving law penetrates the aloneness, the fear and confusion, by giving us some new, useful idea that breaks the hypnotic repetition of sadness and despair.

The useful thought may be to feed the cat, or to remember something that can be done for someone else. It might be just going outside and noticing the strength of a tree or the breadth of the sky.

God's design enables us to think beyond ourselves. And as we do, we start noticing the really good and beautiful aspects of life that echo our own goodness.

A message that saved me from the heartache of my teenage life came from the writings of a woman who turned to God to save her from the agony of friendlessness, self-distrust, and timidity. Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "We must resign with good grace what we are denied, and press on with what we are, for we cannot do more than we are nor understand what is not ripening in us. To do good to all because we love all, and to use in God's service the one talent that we all have, is our only means of adding to that talent and the best way to silence a deep discontent with our shortcomings" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," page 195).

Because you have a life purpose that will bless others, at the hardest times it's important to be honest in admitting your own need for help. The people who helped me the most were the ones who could help me see my strengths and commit to them. Sorting out the different influences of life takes mental independence and wisdom. But the test of good advice is whether it helps us feel the strength to give something instead of want something. The saving power of God makes us feel worthy of being saved. It makes us feel the relief of our own innocence. That's why suicide is a false savior; it only reinforces the blame.

Never does God's child lose the right to live and be happy. What I keep learning about the intensity of feeling is that it is a cover-up for useful thought. Anger, frustration, and worthlessness can rage in a way that can make us feel as frozen as the dirt in the flower bed. But because God intends us to know our original perfection, there's always a new idea at hand to show us how to take a step forward and assure us that we are needed.

Remember that no matter how deeply the tulip bulb is planted, its blossom arrives at the surface without a bruise. And even if a late snow dumps on the open blossom, the color of the petals is not washed out. How heartening to know that we can never stop being what God has designed us to be and intends us to know.

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