About a month ago while visiting with a girl friend (we usually try to meet up once a week to pray together), she gave me some flowers after I noticed a bush (or shrub, I don’t know these terms) of them in her front yard. Four flowers. They were beautiful, but I had to do some chores before I went back home, so they had to sit in the car and wait for me the whole afternoon.
When I got home, the stem parts closest to the flowers had turned so delicate that I had to cradle them in my hands. They had pretty much wilted, and they were no longer “cheerful”-looking. Three of the four hadn’t even fully bloomed yet, and one of them was just a bud. I was a bit sad, but I thought, “Well, maybe they can recover. If not, at least I can say I tried.”
I’ve only had a few years of experience with bouquets and flowers–not making them, receiving them– so I wouldn’t say I’m the ultimate expert, but I know enough about them, I think. So I pruned the ones I had, cutting the stems diagonally using kitchen shears. I cut off a lot of the leaves and only left a few on each stem for contrast. I cut off all of the yellowing and dead leaves, and plucked out some petals that had turned brown. I then sprinkled cold water on the flowers themselves using my fingers, filled a vase with water, and gently placed the wilting flowers in.
The following day, I checked up on my flowers. The petals were still slightly wilted, but the stems were now holding up on their own, pretty well I have to say, and the flowers were facing towards the sunlight. The bud was starting to push out. I changed the water in the vase, sprinkled some water on them again, and checked to see if any of the stems needed some more pruning.
The second morning, I was awestruck by the view that met me when I walked into the kitchen, because I felt that my flowers were beaming at me! They were now all at different stages of bloom. The one that was already fully bloomed when I got it was now in the later stage of its bloom, like a gentle lady with poise and the wisdom of years, who dresses appropriately but elegantly for her age. Two were in their full bloom, reminding me of the wonderfully-dressed and primped American Southern housewives of the 1800s; dignified, courteous, well-pleasing in every way, and respectable. The last flower (the one that started as a wilting bud) was in its first full bloom, like a young lass with upturned lashes, curious, full of life, and sweet, like a Southern belle making her debut.
I was awestruck at the the beauty that captivated my eyes, and as I proceeded to change the water, sprinkle on the flowers, and prune where they needed to be pruned, I thought to myself, “If I hadn’t pruned them, if I hadn’t been patient to let them recover from their wilt, they couldn’t have started to look this way.”
I thanked God for beauty in this world, beauty that we are so free to look at and touch. I thanked God that He allows us to go through times of fire, flood, heat, and all those other things that make us so weak and scarred. I thanked God that He allows things to be taken from us, that He allows us to experience pain and loss, so that we could learn to trust that He knows best and that He is allowing things to happen to make us better. I thanked God that He prunes us and waters us and allows us to emerge even stronger than before. I thanked God that He allows a second bloom, a third, a fourth–really, an infinite number of blooms. But then I started thinking: I want to press one of these flowers. The question was: which one?
It had to be one of the youngest of them, because the petals were still so strong to the tips and they still had that elasticity of youth. The freshly bloomed one I definitely wanted to preserve, before it even started having any of the wounds or dark edges of age on its petals like the other ones. I mean, sure, the older ones were still amazingly beautiful, but they did have marks of age.
As I considered these things, a thought came to me: this must be why sometimes, the best and loveliest person that we know of dies young. God must be taking her out before she even gets soiled by the cares of the world, and while she is at her most beautiful. God must be taking her out because He says, “She is too beautiful, I must preserve her.”
So maybe He takes her out of the vase early on and into His arms, to be forever beautiful, forever youthful, forever strong, forever His.
Note: I ended up not pressing any of them, because I became too humbled and awestruck by the profoundness of it all. I got stuck in reflecting on the God-ness of even the little things of life and I couldn’t bring myself to do it right after thinking of all that. So I left the flowers in peace and continued to enjoy looking at them and taking care of them until they reached the end of their shelf life. Then I threw them all away.