It’s a sad story attached to a round Danish cookie tin. Given to me more than 15 years ago, its silver-gray background pops with bouquets of pastel pink roses and multihued garlands. But I can only think of faded flowers and funeral wreaths when I look at it now.
Why? Because this thoughtful gift came from a once-promising young man who some years later confessed to heinous sins and crimes that eventually earned him a prison sentence. Yeah, I know, what a creepy topic to bring up. But the tragedy of wilted blossoms gnaws at my heart.
What, if anything, could I have done to make a difference in that life? And of course, in the lives of those he victimized? How many other instances of possibility and potential have faded along the way?
There’s the teenage girl swallowed by a cult. The wonderful Bible teacher who found more friendship in an alternative-lifestyle community. The boy who slipped out of prayer meeting to break into the parsonage, more than once. The sparkling new believer who posted her nude poses for the world. The beloved colleagues whose marriages have cracked. The shattered families. The friend whose grin we won’t see again till glory.
For every sorrow and disappointment mentioned, ten more crowd into my mind—and probably yours too. Plenty to challenge our flawed notions that God ever promised us a rose garden. Life’s more a path of rocks than a bed of roses, and faithfulness often means toiling over faded flowers more than enjoying a stroll in the park.
What makes flowers wither and blossoms wilt? How does your garden grow? Today I’m sharing some of the offshoot thoughts from my investigation:
Water with prayer.
Correct watering starts with simply noticing. Ahem, so says my plant doctor as she checks the soil in my pots.
Both indoor and outdoor plants can suffer from insufficient moisture. Sometimes I think they’re getting enough, but they’ve lost more water than they’ve absorbed, because of high temps, dry air, or too-direct sunlight.
Though I doubt anyone could ever be over-prayed-for, overwatering of some indoor plants results in a lack of oxygen. They suffocate. Hmm.
Once a bloom is cut, refrigeration can prolong its freshness (as you all know from the florist’s shop). Its perkiness also depends on the genes of that particular flower type. Some are just stronger and tougher.
But if cut flowers wilt prematurely, you CAN bring many back from the brink of death. One intensive-care method is complete submersion for 30 minutes or longer. I watched (online) a curled-up hydrangea resuscitated. Born again! Then, you keep replenishing the water that evaporates from the vase.
Sounds easy…if you have a green thumb, which I don’t. But my takeaway here: Pay attention. Notice others. Be aware of their needs. Pray.
It seems so obvious, right? But often, I’m focused on something else. Concentrating on my own problems, not on how I can meet my friend’s or neighbor’s needs.
Nobody’s in my life or yours by accident or coincidence. And we may be the answer to someone’s prayer, God’s response to someone’s desperate cry for critical help.
Handle with care.
Do you talk to your plants? Apparently, sound vibrations stimulate growth. And the dulcet tones of a female voice please most ?.
How do you touch your plants? While dead leaves and flowers need trimming, giving in to the temptation to caress silky petals can damage them. Some of the most beautiful and fragrant flowers bruise and brown with the slightest brush.
Fungal diseases and vascular blockages can also cause faded flowers. Those stems do more than just hold a blossom up, and when cut, the system goes into shock. So show your snipped flowers some TLC and ease them into lukewarm water. Then give them regular diagonal cuts, underwater so that air bubbles don’t form in the stems and stopper the flow.
I wonder how I sound to people. Does my speech teach, inspire, edify? Does it even reach them? Compassion and kindness have become rare commodities these days.
When I touch someone’s life, do I crush them? Like the sensitive flowers, some people wound easily. Anyone can be hurt if treated roughly.
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When people fail, as they often will, what’s my reaction? Write them off, give up on the hopeless cases, distance myself from the disasters and embarrassments?
Or…couldn’t we discover the lovely possibilities in the “wild”-flowers and weeds?
Sometimes, to be sure, we will need to confront with truth. But always with grace and gentleness. Because we aim to strengthen, redeem, comfort, not to shrivel and backstab. Enough with the withering glares.
Feed with encouragement.
We learned early here the good sense of investing in fertilizer. The lack of proper minerals in the soil will stunt growth and blight otherwise healthy environments.
For bouquets, those little packages of flower food provide the necessary nutrients for temporary thriving. Or you can make your own with this amazing recipe: 1 teaspoon of sugar (to nourish), 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or a clear carbonated beverage (to enhance color and acidity), and a drop of bleach (to prevent bacterial growth).
“Encouragement changes everything,” someone has said. How much we need to believe the best of others, to believe that people can change and that God can make a difference.
Every person you and I know is struggling with something, whether we see it or they admit it. Hiding our hurts and our hunger means that we may never find healing or filling. One of our enemy’s most fearsome tactics is to isolate us with our shameful secrets and confine us to shallow conversations.
To share our faults begins a process of reconnection with the source of life, health, and nourishment. May God enable us to obey His promptings to enrich one another with lavish words.
A single crumb of encouragement carries the power to transform a family, a generation, a legacy…
“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
No cut flower lasts forever, of course. But the people around us can revive and even flourish, because we are “…born again…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God” (I Peter 1:3-5).
These are the tales my tins tell, the stories I write. Where despite the harsh surroundings and the weeds in the garden, God can bring faded flowers to budding beauty again. I go for the happy endings…of repentance, restoration, and radiant redemption.