This morning as I was getting ready to head off to work, the little red flower that lives by my garage caught my eye in a way it never had before.
Last spring, my mom bought it for me. I don’t remember what kind it is, it looks kind of like a cross between a daisy and a zinnia. It’s red. There, that’s what kind of flower it is. A red one.
This flower has a very interesting story though. And up until now I didn’t really think about how much that story parallels that of our own.
When I got it, it was a sight to see. The leaves were full and green, and it had several big, red flowers on it. It was beautiful.
However, it didn’t take to my yard well. It got sickly and droopy in the sun and warmth of Illinois summers. The leaves withered and turned brown, and the flowers died. And that week that I left on a trip, well, a week without watering in the middle of the summer – let’s just say it really didn’t enjoy that. After I got back, I pretty much gave up on it, because it looked too far gone to survive. And so it sat. The days went by, the weeks passed, and before long, it was nothing but a plastic pot with dry soil and brown leaves. The flowers around it were doing beautifully, full and healthy and colorful. It, however, merely hinted at the beauty that it once displayed.
At the end of the summer, I did the normal yard work of cutting back the flowers and bushes, preparing them for the winter months ahead. As I grabbed that flower by the leaves to pull it out and save the pot, something caught my eye. There, in the middle of the death and dryness, was a tiny green leaf. Against all odds, not having been watered for months, faltering and failing in the oppression of the summer heat, it was still trying to grow. The hint of life still existed in it, in spite of all that had happened to it, in spite of all that it had been through.
So instead, I pruned it. I cut out all the dead stuff. I cut back the remnants that merely hinted at the beauty that once existed. And I watered it. I fertilized it. And over the following days and weeks, the tiny green leaf got bigger. Then a second one appeared. And a third. And over the course of a few months, a solitary red bloom. The flower, though not completely restored to its former magnificence, shone with a beauty that outstripped any other in my yard, because of what it had been through.
And this morning, as I walked out my door and past the green leaves and red blossom, I realized how reminiscent of our lives it was.
We started out as beautiful creatures, created by the very Hands of our loving Father, brought to life by the breath of His mouth. We were a thing of beauty, of creativity, of love. We walked with our Creator, spoke with Him in the cool of the morning. Things were as they were intended to be.
Then, sin entered the world. Because of the decisions made by Adam and Eve, because of the decisions that we make, our spiritual lives died. Just as the flower turned brown and withered, so too did our relationship with God. Adam and Eve ran and hid from their Creator, a far cry from where they had once been. The beauty that had once overwhelmed the senses faded.
However, in our souls lies a seed. A tiny green shoot that is begging to be watered and nourished. A remnant from the past beauty. The world around us scoffs. Our enemy sneers. Our Father smiles.
When we turn our hearts over to Him, He does just as I did with my flower, only on a much more spectacular scale. He slowly cuts out the junk, allowing the Sunlight to reach in. He waters us with His Word. He fertilizes us with the Love that is ours in Jesus Christ. And we grow. Little by little, day by day, we grow. Some days we grow little. Sometimes, we even go backwards and leaves shrivel and fall off. But as we continue on in our relationship with Him, we blossom into a beautiful reminder of how things once were, a foreshadow of how things will be once again.
Just as my flower still bears the scars of its life, so too our lives bear the scars of ours. We are not perfect; in fact, we’re broken. However, our Father loves us just as much as He did the day that He first created us. In spite of our scars and blemishes, He cherishes every moment we spend with Him.
But the story does not end there, far from it. While the other flowers will wither and die as the cold winter winds arrive, the little red flower will get to move into the warmth of my house, where it will be able to finally thrive, free from the heat and bugs and fluffy bunnies with sharp little teeth. Likewise, we who have been restored to our Father through the love, care, and salvation of Jesus, will one day move into the warmth of our Father’s House, where we will thrive, just has He had originally intended.
And there we will rest. There, we will spend our days – reveling, basking in the love, in the care, in the peace, of our Creator.
So let me encourage you with this. We all mess up. We all fall and fail, we all sin. Romans 3:23 phrases it this way: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” We started out a beautiful creation. However, all that stuff that we do to put ourselves and our desires above what God wants for us – the sin in our lives – causes us to shrivel just like my flower did. Or as Romans 6:23a puts it, “For the wages of sin is death.”
However, the story doesn’t have to end there, because “the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b) While I just happened to notice the green spot in my flower, God is fully aware of His seed in our hearts. And while the flower didn’t have any way of calling out for help, we do have the ability to. And when we call, He hears us (1 John 5:14.) “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) The critical thing is – we have to accept the gift that He has already given us. When we call out to Him, when we accept that gift, He will restore us to Himself.
When I saw the tiny green leaf in the middle of my flower, I acted. I trimmed out the dead leaves, watered it, and fertilized it. However, God made plans to save us even before we wanted anything to do with Him. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Even when we were all brown and dry and shriveled, even when we were still smothered in sin, He was planning for the day when He would be able to restore us.
But that’s just the beginning. Our relationship with God is no more a one-time event than my flower turning green just for a day. Rather, it’s an ongoing process. As my friend Brian puts it, it’s not a checkbox, it’s an arrow. A check box is a one-time thing. “Yup, done that.” An arrow is a continual, ongoing process. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”
Our relationship with Him is just that – a relationship. It is a continual, ongoing process. And while there will inevitably still be times that we mess up, sometimes badly, we still continue on. When we do fall, He is faithful to pick us back up.
Then we can say along with David in Psalm 23:6, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”