Do you throw away dead flowers?
I always hate to; there is an intense beauty in a wilted rose, beautiful because of, not in spite of, its shriveled petals. For years now, I’ve been fascinated by the curling up of a dying flower. It symbolizes that in-between place, not life, not death-that moment when life must give way to death.
I always wondered if Eden’s flowers of perfection still had to die.
Wilting roses are so much more to me than dead plants; they are the embodiment of a hurting heart who chooses to surrender. Last winter when we stayed at a dear older “grandma” friend’s home, she had a beautiful cross stitch motto which read, “In Acceptance Lieth Peace.”
This is not fatalistic, “if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen.” It’s choosing to die to your flesh so that God can work in your heart through the sorrow. That doesn’t mean we accept the situation. If we are ill we still seek healing; if we are broken by grief we experience the mourning and then learn to love what is gone by living; if friends forsake us we still love them even as loneliness sears our heart.
But how we react after the pain’s first cut is different: today I want to talk about our initial reaction when God asks us to die to our flesh in some painful, inescapable way.
Usually don’t have a choice whether we will go through hardship or not. That is the nature of suffering. It is unasked for, unwanted pain. There is something so different about difficult labor toward a goal, from the ache of unavoidable pain.
We must meet grief someday. We cannot simply choose to not experience it. All our work to secure good finances, or invest in the best friendships, or perfect care of our health cannot banish Sorrow’s sure feet from our doorstep.
We must meet her. But when she knocks, we do have a choice: how will we greet her?
If we choose to trust that she is a messenger of God’s love, sent to train us to depend only on God, we will be able to surrender. We may sit in agonized searching for the reason, or we may say, “Lord, I do not know why you sent this pain. But I know Your heart for me is good. I will trust that this is working a weight of glory and training me for Heaven.”
For every flower, there comes a moment when the season of bloom ends. The withering of that proud and firm stance into the inevitable wilt – do flowers resent this? But it is a necessary death. For only by the death of something good will the seeds form.
By death comes new life.
It is so in nature as it is in our own souls. We must die.
What would happen if we never walked through this death? Flowers which are frozen so the ordained death cannot follow the bloom, what happens? The petals do not dry; they rot.
Death is before us all; we must choose between the death of stagnation, or the death of surrender. One leads to a rotten stench; the other to new life.
When Sorrow comes knocking, she will command you to morph from the bloom to the death. In that moment you must choose-will you trust the Lord’s will? Or will you refuse to produce seeds, the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work?
Wilting roses are beautiful to me; they remind me of the strange glory of surrender. A heart who so rests in her Savior that she accepts His decree that she let fly her precious petals – nothing but love for Him could allow it.
If we remember the death He died, surrendered to the will of the Father, we can rest in the assurance of His love. He allows this pain not because He hates us, but because of His love. Has He not gone before us in this very love? Has He not already accepted death of His very body to bring forth life in us? We must rest in His wisdom: he asks of us nothing greater than what He did for us on the cross.
In that in-between place, before the petals have withered, breathe. This is the way of the Lord. He chooses to bring us to places where we must depend on Him alone, releasing our own pretty petals. But in that first surrender, when we allow Him to work in our hearts, there is intense beauty.
Beyond the bloom, when we surrender to the death, trusting He is forming of new life, so many only see the pain. There in the quiet is a secret love which only the heart and the Father sees. We surrender because we love Him. There is no more perfect love of God than that which chooses to accept His decrees, even knowing they may hurt.
The death of surrender is beautified in this love.
“How can the suffering Christian bring joy to Him who dwells in the glory of highest heaven, above the seraphim? Simply, there is in meek and even joyful acceptance of pain and sorrow so exquisite a spirit manifested, that He who delights in our highest beauty of character is glad with an intense gladness. He who was “made perfect through sufferings” rejoices to see His beloved being made fair with myrrh–the symbol of grief and pain–like the bride of long ago. He is gladdened by one soul that with singleness of purpose counts no suffering too great to serve Him, and is glad to be crushed and poured forth for His dear sake. It speaks a love for Him that verily brings a thrilled of joy to the heart of Him who loves each one of us more deeply and personally than we ever realize.”
~The Vine, Homera Homer-Dixon, printed 1923
And so, when Sorrow knocks, and you rise to answer, you have a choice.
Do you love your Savior enough to choose to surrender?