Dead or Alive?

Yesterday was my 55th birthday. I’m not sure how that much time has gone by so quickly. At least 18 birthdays ago, a friend gave me the pretty purple plant in the picture. I don’t remember what it is. Probably some of you will let me know. It’s quite a plant, mostly because it’s still alive. I am not good with plants. They always die. Quickly.

When this plant arrived on my birthday so long ago, its big, beautiful bell-shaped flowers were blooming. I loved it. Not too long after that, the flowers fell off. I kept the naked plant on the windowsill in my kitchen. A few more flowers bloomed a little while later. After they fell off, the plant remained on the windowsill. It seemed fine for a couple of months. Then it started to die. The leaves went first, then the stems. After a few more months, there was nothing left but a little withered stump. This did not come as a surprise to me. I can’t keep plants alive.

I’d like to say that I left it on the windowsill because I was hoping it would come back to life, but really, it was just my lazy side that rears its ugly head more than I’d like. I left it there, barely noticing it. But then, one day about eight months after it first arrived, I saw green on the brown stump. Much to my surprise and delight, more and more green appeared. Soon, a new green stem grew out of the dead stump. Even more exciting, one day I walked into the kitchen and saw a flower bud. It was back. My sad little dead plant was about to bloom again.

Sure enough, a few days later, a second blossom appeared and then another. This time, when the blooms fell off, I didn’t panic. I didn’t wonder why I kill every green thing I touch. I wasn’t sad to say goodbye to the pretty purple flowers. This time, I had hope. It came back once, why wouldn’t come back again? And it did. Every year it came back a little bigger. Eventually, I had to transplant it to bigger pot. I was so happy that I finally had a plant I could take care of with positive results.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t actually do anything to keep this plant alive besides a little water now and then, when I remember. But every year, without fail, no matter how dead it looks, it blooms again. It occurred to me one year that maybe my husband replaces it every year to make me feel better. But he swears he doesn’t. This year, the purple flowers opening was especially uplifting.

It reminds me that no matter how bleak life seems, there is hope. Things will get better, even if they get worse for a time, even when it seems like life is over. We all go through seasons. Some are filled with activity and growth, others are quieter, even dormant. On the surface, it may look like there is nothing happening, like life has been snuffed out. But during the dormant times, life is just gathering all it needs to burst forth again. The time it takes is not wasted. Although nothing can be seen, the roots are growing deeper. The effort exerted is making it stronger.

Suffering does the same thing in our lives. Being set aside for a season gives us time to grow, to go deeper, to understand more of the suffering of our Savior. It’s just what we need to mature and look forward with joy, knowing the best is yet to come.

“Oh Lord my God, I have cried to you for help, and you have healed me. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:2&5b ESV – I recommend you read the whole psalm)

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