Hidden Potential

Spring is my favorite season–there’s just something about the transition from near-constant darkness to the hope of light that awakens everything within me. Winter is survival mode, but spring is life being lived at its fullest.

One of my favorite springtime traditions is an annual pilgrimage to the tulip fields in Mount Vernon, about an hour north of our home. It’s like a mini-Holland with hundreds of acres of tulips painstakingly planted and nurtured and manicured by people with thumbs much greener than my own. Mount Vernon in April is a rainbow fallen to earth, with dazzling colors stretching across the valley all the way to the mountain foothills in the distance. It’s quite literally breathtaking.

But it’s not always like that. Last January I drove through Mount Vernon and all I saw was an endless valley of dirt. Ugly, boring brown dirt. In fact, most of the year when you drive through Mount Vernon the fields look like a bit of a wasteland. Mount Vernon looked simple and unattractive that winter afternoon–hardly the explosion of brilliance that I’ve come to expect from this area. And yet I knew that beneath that boring brown dirt there was something happening. Bulbs were being nourished (by that boring brown dirt), roots were forming, life was beginning. Blooms were there, just under the surface. January was the season of becoming. Without January I’d never get to experience April.

Last week I drove up to the tulip fields again, this time in mid-April. As I made the drive up to the fields, this is what I was thinking of. January. And April. I drove with anticipation that the hidden work happening underground all winter would result in beauty.

This year has felt a lot like a January. A very long, long January. And, just as the hidden potential of January produces the flowers of April, I feel like the toiling of this year is producing beauty in my life. God has used this prolonged season of disruption to do a lot of work in my life and our family–the arduous work underground of becoming something new, something better.

In January (irony?) we decided to embark on a journey that has been a long time in coming, but we’d just never really known how to take the first step. Our oldest son has had many challenges over the years, and we knew he needed help…but we really didn’t know what kind of help or how to get it or how to even ask for it. So, we decided to take a step, not knowing if it was the right step or even if it was in the right direction. I figured at the very least if it was the wrong step then we’d tumble down and know that we needed to try stepping a different way.

So, I scheduled our son for a series of assessments and, after several months of walking down that path, we realized it was the path that we should have been on years ago. When the results came in (In April, of course) it was both striking and reassuring–for the first time we had confirmation that the challenges he’d been facing were real. We hadn’t been imagining the challenges or somehow failed at parenting. We now had an official diagnosis. We had names for those challenges. ADHD. Autism. Dysgraphia.

And with those names came power. Power over the fear and doubt of what we didn’t yet understand. Power from the knowledge of a better path forward. Power from knowing that our son was and is who he always has been, which is exactly who he was always meant to be. Power in knowing which path we need to walk forward on and the people that can help us walk it a little less clumsily.

Receiving his diagnosis was our April. The hidden potential of our son had been buried underground, and now we could finally see the brilliance of who he is. All of the hard work that has been happening behind the scenes is showing us a better way forward. We can now face tomorrow with a renewed sense of hope and excitement because we know the right path to walk on. I know that path will not always be easy–in fact, it’s probably going to be messy and difficult as we dig our way out of the weeds–but I know it will lead us to a better final destination.

__________________

When I pulled off I-5 in Mount Vernon last week, I was not disappointed. The boring brown dirt had done its work, and the fields were a cacophony of color. The formerly-stagnant bulbs had sprouted into brilliant flower stalks, waving in the breeze and welcoming visitors to admire their beauty.

And as I gazed in wonder at the endless rows of perfection, I knew that the hard work underground was worth it. Because every good and beautiful thing is born from potential, from hard work in the off-season, and from time. Beauty does not just happen, it is created from labor and sacrifice. So, as our family moves forward with confidence into this new season of understanding, we will look for the beauty. Beauty created not just from labor and sacrifice, but from love. Because love is the most beautiful work of all.

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