Because I believe in God’s sovereignty, my perspective is constantly being rescued and reframed. For years I have been closely effected by a roller coaster ride of heartaches due to the addictions and bad choices of a sweet adult child along with turbulence in some of the relationships he became entwined with. Mixed in with the fun times we all have shared, there have been times that waves of despair have crashed in on our family. Through it all I believe that God is rescuing and keeping those I have committed to Him, and in fact, our entire family. (“…and that is why I have suffered these things. But I am not ashamed because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.” 2 Tim. 1:12) As Carol Kent points out so well in her book, “When I Lay My Isaac Down”, the entire family suffers when a family member is arrested; i.e. not just with the shock and heartache, but with a taste of the ill treatment that is often dished out liberally to the incarcerated. From exorbitant phone call charges, visitation lines, changing rules, searches, lies, rudeness, scapegoats, assumption of guilt, etc., we have learned more then we ever wanted to about our system. As Joseph said to his brothers after his long set of trials at their hands, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result…” (Gen. 37-45) Seeing things from God’s perspective caused him to be able to forgive his brothers for the evil scheme they had carried out. It’s not always an easy thing to keep my eyes focused on God’s perspective, but when I do I see clearly His love and mercy even within difficulties. Then there are the unexpected moments of God’s grace in the hard places, such as when a friend picks up the corner of our stretcher by encouraging words, cards, prayers, hugs (both virtual and real) or sacrificial actions. There have been some who have sought us out just to help us stand strong in a hard place; as well as those who have essentially left us alone in it.
That thing that I would most like to erase from my circumstances is often the very thing God will get the most mileage from in His molding makeover plans. This is something not understood by those who have not put their trust in God. The lure of success, popularity, and power along with the slippery slope of pride can be too strong to welcome or see the need for a trial to sharpen spiritual perspective and increase trust. Yet the most humbling things that I would choose to avoid, He uses for His glory and my good.
Last fall I planted bulbs, which, like cocoons and butterflies, wombs and babies, and so many other design marvels, illustrate the amazing skill of a Master Weaver to use the dark and hidden places to yield something no less then splendid. His transforming powers are not at all affected by my ideas of where they should occur, whether behind prison walls built by men or those constructed within hearts encased in a fine exterior in denial of the slavery within. Meantime, true heart freedom is being forged in the hard places not the easy ones.
The beauty of flowers and spring is like a visual banner shouting God’s handiwork that was done in the hard and hidden places. I am thankful for following through with the instinctive nudging to plant more bulbs last fall in addition to other landscape specimens already here. Beginning with helleborus, Magnolia Jane and white forsythia defying winter in the midst of freezing temps, the floral processional has begun. Moving on from hyacinths, viburnums and daisies to tulips, flowering almonds, spireas, Japanese Maple, lilacs, azaleas, and the unfurling of peonies, I’m feasting on an array of visionary and olfactory reminders of God’s creativity, faithfulness and love.
If the kaleidoscope of colors doesn’t settle the matter, there is the intoxicating aroma of hyacinths, Korean Spice Viburnum and lilacs to further prove He does exceedingly above all that we ask or think. In “Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything”, author Steve DeWitt says, ‘…every created beauty was created by God to lead our affections to Him. That’s why He made the pleasures of earthly beauty so fleeting – so that on the other side of the pleasure we might experience either wonder and worship and ultimate satisfaction in God or the pursuit of the pleasure that beauty provides for its own sake. If we choose the latter, we will only be disappointed again.’
As one wave of blooms fades and another comes on, there is a rhythmic reminder that, like the blooms that come and go, my life, too is a vapor to be poured out in whatever channel He desires. My response to the course He chose for me is sweet surrender, and yes, even gratefulness. Since nothing happens to me outside of His permission, He must have confidence that I will display His glory even in arid places. Perhaps He has handpicked you for a hard place as well.
A sweet friend encouraged me after a recent turning point in my family’s heartbreaking saga of the loss of a family member to incarceration, “Now you have the framework for the future.” Her words were comforting and also reminded me that I’ve always had the framework for the future from the time I turned my life over to Christ at age nine. Through ups and downs, valleys and “mountaintops”, seasons of drought and seasons of showers, God has always been there and been my Savior and my friend. The gardens have not failed to rescue and reframe my perspective!