Dead Flowers

Throughout the centuries, flowers have been adored, revered, enjoyed, enshrined in vases and pots, given as tokens of friendship and love, immortalized by poets, placed on graves in memorial, and captured in the snapshots of photographers.  They are among nature’s most beautiful jewels.  A simple lily is arrayed in more splendor than Solomon and all his glory (Matthew 6:28-29).  Friedrich von Schiller referred to them as “The offspring of the morning sun.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called them “Stars, that in the earth’s firmament do shine.”  The beauty of the tiniest flower can enrapture even the most melancholy soul.  Flowers are given as peace offerings, proclamations of love, and gifts.  Their uses are nearly infinite; their poetic potential endless.

It is strange that we so venerate  flowers.  Their lifespans are short and their beauty fades quickly.  Once cut from their stems, they can only hope to live a few days or a week.  They are almost like firecrackers, ablaze one moment with color and energy, shriveled and lifeless the next.  The place where they grew sprouts new blooms, forgetting that it was ever visited by such glory.  One of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 103, speaks of flowers.  It doesn’t praise their charm or thank their Creator.  Instead, it notes their short life span, and compares it to that of a man.

“As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.”
Psalm 103:15-16

It’s an almost depressing verse.  It calls up memories of James 4:14: “What is your life?  You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  I Chronicles 29:15 states, “Our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope.”  Job 9:25 sighs, “My days are swifter than a runner.”  One might surely be tempted to ask “What’s the point?”  It is a valid question, for there seems to be no point.  After all, what affect can a shadow or a vapor have?  How can a flower, only alive for a moment in time, have any impact on its surroundings?

There is one tiny redeeming word, however.  It makes up for the gloomy sentiments in the verse.  That word is “flourish.”  Most translations of the Bible use “flourish,” or some variation of it.  It is a quite wonderful word.  The dictionary gives it a few cryptic sentences, and yet still gets to the very heart of its meaning.  To flourish is to thrive, to prosper, to be in a state of constant activity or production.  Verse 15 states, “he flourishes like a flower of the field.” It is not as though we are dropped on earth to merely exist.  We are placed here to thrive, to produce, and to prosper.  If a flower were not to be in a constant state of activity and production, it would not bloom.  If it did not thrive, it would simply waste away without ever fulfilling its purpose.  Certainly no great poets have eulogized about flowers that didn’t bloom.  It is the tiny window of life that is forever immortalized, the moment of activity, and the explosion of color and perfume.  Flowers that have lived are mourned after their deaths.  Flowers that refused to grow are not.

May we not be as flowers dead on their stems, refusing to progress.  A walk with Christ is not an exercise in mediocrity.  It is not a license to stagnate.  It is not an allowance to hoard the redeeming, sanctifying life that we have been given.  Let us not abuse the grace we have received, for this grace was given to us that we may preach to the world the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).  If we must pass away (for eventually we must), let us have lived such vigorous lives that others mourn the loss of color when we leave.  Let us thrive and grow, so that when we return to the ground, others may build, using our lives as a foundation.  Let us be as a firecracker, ablaze with passion and energy for the time we are alloted.  Let us flourish, and leave traces of glory.

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” – Indian Proverb