July fourth! Freedom Day!! I have been watching the hibiscus grow from the stems I was convinced were long dead from the winter freeze. This past season we had a real blizzard; I mean, a blizzard as meteorologically defined by the National Weather Service. Here in town it looked like about 18 inches of fluffy white fell from just this one storm; it was beautiful, but brutal. The storm passed, the mountains of snow plowed from Walmart’s parking lot finally melted, and as the year progressed, I talked with some of my gardening friends at work when I noticed that my hibiscus wasn’t resurfacing. Oh, they said, they always bring their hibiscus plants in for the winter season. (Great. Now they tell me.) Their precious plants live securely in big pots that are easily transferable throughout the seasons. Mine lives in the ground, or so I thought. Sure, they continued, they turn a little yellow and lose a few leaves while inside, but they survive, which was currently more than I could confidently posit for my new little plant.
Yet another one bites the dust.
Winter eclipsed into spring, and I was about to dig up the place where my hibiscus lay in permanent repose, remove what was left, and make the area available for another try at…well, something. But what I soon observed stayed my hand: I noticed small green shoots coming up from where the “dead” plant was. Over the next several days I watched, at first somewhat incredulously, then excitedly, as the shoots continued to defy the harsh winter blast by pushing up tenaciously toward the spring sunlight. Soon, the shoots became as thick as my thumb, and eventually provided a harvest of hummingbird-tempting, bright red blossoms as big as my hand, all from the plant I thought was gone for good.
My experience with my hidden hibiscus, though at first disappointing but then elating, gives me pause in a few other areas:
- Pastor Lawrence Wilson has said that a vision must first die for it to be properly resurrected. 18th century theologian Matthew Henry would seem to agree, and writes concerning the gospel of Christ, (but which can also be appropriately applied to any dream we have with God): “The good seed of the gospel sown in the world, and sown in the heart, both by degrees, produce wonderful effects, but without noise…so it is with the gospel, when it is sown, and received, as seed in good ground. It will come up; though it seem lost and buried under the clods, it will find or make its way through them.” (1)
- How quickly I was ready to give up on my hibiscus! And what a waste if I had given up too early and dug up the plot just when it was working hard under the dirt getting ready to surprise me! And how quickly I can be to give up on more important dreams, or people, in my life.
- Many times God works silently, despite the harsh cold of evil in our circumstances; He works relentlessly, pushing through the painful shame that tries to hold us in seclusion. Consider: Paul gave up on John Mark; that’s the same Mark that went on to later write the second biography of Christ, thanks to his Uncle Barnabus’ kind intervention at the time. (2) God’s right-hand-man, Job, gave up on himself, until God put his circumstances in a higher perspective. (3) And God Himself seemed to be having second thoughts about this wayward group of vagabonds called Israel, and allowed Moses to “change” His mind. (4) In all three historic events, something that looked dead, like a dream, a relationship, even an eternity, made an amazing comeback.
What disappointments do you have in your life—can you name one right now? (Yeah, I know, probably more like ten or twenty.) Have you given up on something, or someone? If you have, then you’re actually in good company. What hopes and dreams do you have for your family, your children, yourself? What vision has been seemingly buried under a brutal life-blizzard? You are invited to join the team. Rest assured that we are being observed by “so great a cloud of witnesses” to rejoice as the fresh new shoots rise from the cold dirt.(5)
The challenge, the invitation, is to commit to God the hopes and dreams that I hardly dare to recall, even after the blizzard abates. Patiently, may we let God’s timing have its way with the roots, and come spring, we may be surprised.
- Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible
- Acts 15:36-39
- Job 42:1-17
- Exodus 32:11-14
- Hebrews 12:1-2