Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Mysterious Strength of Life in the Darkness

for Doris and Hannah

I am a sentimental gardener. I plant flowers that remind me of people and places, times and memories I love. 

As I tend the rosemary in my herb garden, it reminds me of the first time I ever traveled to North Africa with my husband and firstborn infant son. I stood on a crumbling terrace overlooking a dirty beach wondering if I could actually bear moving to this country and raising my family. 

Looking down, I saw a hedge of rosemary lining the broken tiles, and absently broke off a sprig. Crushing it between my fingers, I inhaled its pungent scent and reflected how it is in our brokenness that the fragrance of Christ is released. Tough times and tough places break us, and release what is inside. Rosemary will always remind me to take courage when God allows me to be crushed in the gentle, strong hands of His will, that the fragrance of Christ may be released to those around me. 

Peonies bring me great joy with their oversized, heavy blooms, perfumed with a scent that reminds me of running barefoot as a child across green mountain grass. In recent years, two very  important mentors in my life gave me peonies to start my own peony garden. I delighted as the flowers multiplied and thrived. Last year when we made the decision to sell our house, I dug them up and carefully stored them, hoping to preserve and plant them in our new home.

Time passed and springtime began to draw near again. I was anxious that I had waited too long and would lose my treasured flowers, such symbols of the truth and beauty those mentors have invested in my life. Digging out the container with my bulbs, I feared they had died. To my delight I discovered instead that in the damp darkness they had taken root and begun to bud. They were exactly perfect for planting again.

I underestimated the power of life in those bulbs.

In the darkness, they were expanding slender, tenacious roots in every direction. Powerful yet fragile buds were pressing forward with mysterious strength, foretelling blooms laden with perfume. Promising life and joy, beauty and delight.

All in the darkness.

I stood transfixed, staring at them. I felt as if I had opened a letter from my Father, the One who made the flowers and every delight in my garden, the Creator of Heaven and all the joyful springtime of Earth. 

Surely within this box lay a lesson for my heart, an outline of truth reflected in His creation.

What of the damp darkness in life, I wondered? What of the dreams, the aspirations, the beautiful treasures of our lives that get dug up and boxed away in the darkness, waiting for better days to come? Always with the intention of taking them out again, replanting them, seeing them thrive at some future time and place? Our intentions are to preserve and protect, so we stuff them away in a distant corner of our hearts. Time gets away from us and they remain boxed up, nagging at us at the most inopportune times.

Are they dying or are they sprouting in that hidden place? Do we have the courage to take time out and open the lid of our tucked-away things?

I have underestimated the power of Life in my own darkness. 

I like sunshine and happy things. I do not like to think of the hidden places in my heart that I have boxed up for another time. 

But in the hidden place, the seed of Life cracks, it splits, the old shell falling apart to make way for the astonishing strength of Hope and a Future, Beauty and Gladness. 

Upward it surges, seeking the Light, looking for a way to grow toward heaven. Because that is what Life was made to do.

Open the box.  

Trust the one who made the seeds. He has set in place a principle of life bursting forth from death, growth in the darkness. 

Springtime is here, the season for planting!

Take courage. I know I need it. Let’s pray for each other as we step forward on the road to the Cross this week, waiting for the blessed hope of Life bursting forth from death.

I pray for my readers this week, Father, that you will give each one the courage to open the box hidden away in the darkness of a heart that is waiting for Life. Spring forth life from our broken old shells and make something beautiful grow to bless many. Release Your fragrance in us today, God. Amen.

Add your prayers to my own today!


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