Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. Spring in the desert is a color bonanza. The trees blossom and the cacti flash out brief hellos before the summer heat broils.
With vacations, celebrations, and special days on the calendars, our thoughts can float to the future and raise us up from the monotonous present.
And yet, the beauty of the middle spaces surprises me — the walk between buildings, the commute between home and work, the world at sunrise, or the sky at sunset. Yes — the ordinary spaces have become increasingly sweet. These transitions between home, work, church, day, night, and life — the daily crossings — are holy.
Who dares despise the day of small things? (Zechariah 4:10)
Day and night, I found myself checking in on my new hibiscus (a Brilliant or San Diego Red Hibiscus). I brought it home from the nursery in full bloom and quickly began googling plant care instructions. I mean, come on, those itsy bitsy plant tags seem like shorthand for people who actually know how to make plants thrive. How much water? How much sun? I had to check to see how much sun actually reaches each corner of my small, east-facing balcony throughout the day!
I learned that hibiscus blossoms flash out brilliantly. They last a day, maybe two. Then, they fold and drop to the ground. I wasn’t worried, though, because little buds of promise danced all over my leafy plant (I admit I felt a little giddy). This bud was leading the pack.
The next day I found this very same bud all shriveled and sad and lying on the ground. I returned to the internet to research what was happening. I learned that some pests attack the buds before they blossom. So – I took a close look. Tiny white aphids had found their way to the buds. I kept thinking — what have I done? I don’t have time for “problem-child” plants!!
There was no time to lose. I spritzed it (okay, I doused it) with natural repellents, cleaned, and pruned that plant with a passion. By the time I was done, I wondered if it would survive the shock of such treatment and nakedness.
I almost tossed the plant. I didn’t think I could bear to watch it shrivel and die. But, I figured the least I could do was give it a good soak with water and sun and wait.
Bit by bit, this little skeleton of a plant resisted the rubbish heap. Drooping buds began to perk up. And, soon, another bud began to reach higher and grow larger than the others. Sure, I knew what could happen, and I held my breath.
When I woke to this juicy, red blossom last week, I was so tickled.
I am still getting acquainted with this plant and learning its rhythms and ways, and I don’t for a minute assume we are out of the woods.
I have new respect for things that look dead. They may not look pretty, but scrubbed, pruned limbs can surprise us with life. Beauty can flame out when you least expect it.
“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” Proverbs 24:26
Oh, the gift of honesty. It is not for everyone, nor do we expect or invite it from everyone. But our deep, true and meaningful relationships need honesty to grow. It is essential.
There is a language of flowers, and like in dreams or any other symbolic reference, it is subjective. These flowers say, “Welcome, we have been waiting for you.” They say, “YOU are loved.” It is clear to me that someone went ahead of me to make a space, a space of quiet, of rest, of worship.
Come, Lord. Come. This is your space. This is your time.