I’ve been thinking about tulips lately, partly because some bulbs I planted several years ago finally got the right combination of weather or fertilizer to bloom. I’ve been watching them each day, noticing how the flowers close at night and remain closed when it’s cold outside.
In the morning, the tulips stand mainly straight up, but by evening, they’re leaning to the southwest, tracking the sunlight, drinking in its warming rays. I stand amazed, as I always have, that a flower without a brain knows how to do that.
I learned in Biology 101 that the process is called phototropism, and perhaps sunflowers provide the most obvious example of it. When sunlight hits the plant, it triggers a phytohormone called auxene, which causes cells on the outer part of the shady side of the stem to grow longer. As those shady-side cells elongate, they bend the stem toward the sun.
It’s a beautiful thing to see and an impressive subject for contemplation as we consider the marvels of this world God has given us.
It also brings to me an interesting thought: often what turns us toward God is growth that takes place in the dark places of our lives, the times when troubles or griefs spur us to stretch toward the Son, toward the One who experienced all the sorrow the world could give but still showed the way to hope and resurrection.
If we live in the light, it’s because we have grown in the dark.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.