Over the last few weeks, my amaryllis has been preparing to bloom. I’ve had a number of them bloom out of season this year, including a great blood-red one that opened just in time for Passiontide. This one will be orange; its buds have separated, and one is showing a bit of cantaloupe where the petals are beginning to unfurl.
Normally, I’d be delighted, but this flower is on target to begin to blossom the day after I leave for vacation, and it will almost certainly be done before I return. It takes a year to re-bloom, so I’m not going to get to see this one in its glory for quite awhile. And yet, it will be beautiful, whether I see it or not.
I found myself wondering how many people are like the amaryllis: blossoming quietly where they are, unobserved, yet still lovely. Jonathan Haight writes, in The Righteous Mind, that many people (most people?) are much more likely to live by their own ethical codes when they think they will be exposed if they do not. In other words, for many people, ethical living is about impressing others.
But part of the work of Christian living is to seek an essential integrity: to live as who we are, whether that is easy or difficult, whether anyone is watching or not. God gave you your self, and your task is to live that true self, which is the self from which we can develop rich and honest relationships with other people and with God. It does not matter whether others are watching. Our call is still to blossom.
We do not know what good our quiet acts of faithfulness and kindness will bring into the world. Perhaps the one small gesture will spell hope to a desperate soul, or light the heart of a lonely child. But even if it does not, the One who sees all will take delight.