A friend told me that years ago, and I realized how right she was when I received an unexpected arrangement from my son at a time when I really needed some cheering up.
The arrangement arrived in an iridescent, translucent vase of eggplant. The flowers were glorious in varying hues of purple — indigo, violet and plum — looking much like a Van Gogh painting of irises.
Throughout the day, and the coming week, I couldn’t help but smile whenever I looked at the small but breathtaking arrangement. Every time a new flower opened, there seemed to be new beauty in the room; a reminder of the expansive love of God.
But as one week moved into two, there were still some buds that hadn’t opened, and while they enjoyed a delicate beauty of their own, it seemed sad that soon the flowers would need to be discarded and the buds would end their lives without having achieved their full potential and beauty. People are like buds, I thought.
Certainly, we are each created by God for some purpose; we are planted here like seeds with the potential to blossom with a beauty well beyond that of any flower. But life itself often becomes the obstacle to full growth. Our spirits may flag under the consistent challenge of moving forward, of “becoming.” We become staid, even stagnant in our growth, afraid or unable to take whatever risks we need to take to fulfill our purpose.
That is where people have an advantage over flowers. We are reflective beings who have the ability to recognize our own needs, and we have others in our lives who can nurture our unfolding. We are capable of love.
Before I disposed of my lovely arrangement entirely, I did something I saw my mother do a hundred times with the forsythia cut from our backyard garden. I pulled out all the buds, without too much handling, cut their stems under water and put them in a smaller bowl on my desk. My mother would have added a drop of bleach or an aspirin. I added a little anti-bacterial mouthwash, courtesy of the Internet, and made sure I changed the water every few days. Then I waited expectantly, having learned that encouraging buds to bloom takes time and attention.
It is no different with people, whether we are nurturing ourselves or someone else.
We do the work and then wait with expectant faith knowing a loving God planted the seed.