Long time ago… Freshman year, Central College. I was a young athletic Californian getting used to a strange land – Iowa ;-). I was in the process of meeting some great people, getting used to being on my own (kinda), and learning about different cultural traditions. Now, as a Californian, I felt I was pretty progressive and open, but when I was introduced to one tradition, I scoffed… scoffed big time… That tradition was Tulip Time. Just the sound of it grated against my “tough jock persona” (ok, I wasn’t that tough, but I was 18, so I had to try to maintain the illusion… maybe being a cheerleader didn’t help in this 😉 ). All through the fall and winter I heard about it, and watched the entire town of Pella get into it… tulip bulbs being planted all over town and in front of each and every house, and planning for the Tulip Time festival that would happen in May. I was a runner, so the only thing I was concerned about in May was qualifying for Nationals. Still, Tulip Time was in my face, and I had to endure it…
Endure it, that is, until spring came… As the weather warmed up, the tulips began to bloom… everywhere. The entire town was transformed into the most beautiful flower garden. Colors and varieties of tulips were on display, and timed perfectly to coincide with the festival. The weather cooperated well too… had the winter lasted too long, the festival would have been without bloom… too short, the tulips would have died prior to the festival. That first year I became a believer… a believer in what others already knew about through experience.
Today was officially, “not the day”. After enjoying a poorly made London Fog latte at Starbucks (sometimes they just miss), I got back in my car and proceeded to my lunch date… no, I didn’t… cuz my car decided that it wanted to sit there. After I calmed down long enough to start making calls, I reached a repair shop that could see me today. What stuck in my mind was the conversation with the head of the shop. He told me that Michael was familiar with my kind of car, and that he had dealt with these things before. Turns out that Michael had some unique experiences with cars doing what mine was… one time having it decide to go in gear on its own in the shop… not a pleasant experience.
Now I cannot say that I am glad that Michael had the experience he had, because it was not pleasant for him. But I was fortunate that his experience could be brought to bear on my lovely day, where he didn’t have to tear apart my engine or charge me an arm and a leg. He had been through it, so he knew how to get “to the other side”, if you will.
There are many experiences we go through that we love, others we hate and some just make us wish we were never born. Sometimes we rate our lives, our personal value, even our righteous standing by the experiences we have. I think it is unfortunate that our society still lives by the rule, “the one who dies with the most toys, wins”. We tout those with what we deem “good experiences” as good and blessed and favored, and those with “bad experiences” as cursed and rejected. Depending on how we are related to the situation, we will place those labels on ourselves, even blame ourselves and hold ourselves hostage because of how the situation has presented itself.
Yet, depending on how we decide to live through it, there is beauty in every experience. The beauty may not be readily apparent, and it may take some personal healing or soul searching to find it, but just like Tulip Time, there will be opportunity for the beauty to bloom. Maybe it is like Michael, being able to help another customer whose day was otherwise a waste… maybe it is the activist who saved the lives of a number of young people – this person who decided that no one was going to be killed the way her son was. Maybe it is being able to be there for someone going through a terminal illness, because you experienced that with your own family member… See, the person who is just going through it only knows what they can see or feel. The person who has had the experience can see that there is much more to it than meets the eye. For me, in the fall of Freshman year, Tulip Time seemed ridiculous… now, having been through it, I can’t wait to go back and take others with me.
There was a time when Jesus was with his disciples and he came across a blind man. This, for the disciples was a negative experience, and one they deemed was negative for the man. they asked:
who sinned, this man or his parents that he would be born blind?
Jesus turned the tables on the disciples. They were looking to get out of the situation, and get past the experience. Jesus, however wanted to connect with the experience:
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.”
Jesus was basically saying, “don’t look at this as bad… look for what can come from it.” Depending on how we handle the situations, there can always be good. Even if it is just to help someone else avoid a negative situation for themselves.
In the midst of my negative day, before I knew that my car was gonna give me grief, I realized that I had parked across the street from a couple houses with… yes, tulips. I told myself, “I’m gonna write something about them”, not realizing how it would all tie together.
So, if you are having a bad day (or week… or month… or year… or…), take the label off of it. Ask yourself what you can get from it, and how it can be used for your, or someone else’s good. This will help you from holding yourself hostage to blame and fear, and give you the ability to wait with patience for the beauty to bloom.
Richard Turere was a young boy with some pretty bad experiences, dealing with lions killing and eating the livestock of his family. Because of how he dealt with it, however he was able to help many families in his community save their own livestock. His story is one of beauty in bloom:
To get a glimpse of the beauty of Tulip Time, check out OM’s photo blog (that is, until I can get back there and take a bunch of pictures myself 🙂 ).