Late winter is a quiet time for any gardener, especially in more northern climates. Although there are a few crops that can be planted indoors to put outside in early spring, for the most part it’s too early to get started. Tomatoes grown indoors now will be too leggy by Memorial Day. Other early spring crops, like peas, do best in the warmed ground to begin. Winter is a time of stillness and relative inactivity for the gardener.
Yet beneath the surface of the ground, there is activity that is invisible to the human eye. Bulbs that were planted in the fall are undergoing a period of dormancy, but that dormancy is crucial to their coming to bloom the following spring. When the bulbs are planted, they immediately soak up all the moisture and nutrients from the soil that they can get and begin to put out shoots. As the deep freeze comes, their growth is halted. Yet this period of cold dormancy is necessary if the bulb is to last more than one season. A period of rest allows the plant to grow in a more robust way in the longer term.
God’s life in us can sometimes be like that dormant bulb. We can experience times of relative quiet and inactivity where nonetheless significant growth is happening beneath the surface. I remember once going through a period of dryness for several months; while it seemed that “nothing was happening” in prayer, God was active in a way that was imperceptible. After the dryness ended, my prayer life shifted from a more active form of imaginative prayer to one of contemplation. While I still cannot say quite what God was doing during the time of quiet, the joy that followed was like the blossoming of a flower after dormancy.
Our relationships can be like the underground bulb, too. Marriages can undergo quieter, less passionate phases before re-blossoming anew. Friendships can undergo a period of dormancy, if they are later to flourish—for example, when friends move, or are busy with a new baby, or are newly married. Even if active communication is lessened, we can remain close to friends at such times in prayer.
While we must cultivate and tend to our relationships with one another and with God, even in periods of our own dormancy, God is ever active.