Winter flowers: hope for New Year

Thursday, 01 January 2004 @ 12:43 am SGT

Contributed by: Yinghuo Chong

At the end of fall, I weeded my garden for the last time before the cold set in and nothing would grow. After several hours of backbreaking work, I looked at the fruits of my labor with some satisfaction.

The rosemary sapling that I planted in the spring had grown to be a beautiful little bush with tiny, purple flowers. One branch leaned lazily on the ground and I thought to myself that it would look perfect in my kitchen vase, a fragrant welcome to my brother and his family who were to arrive that afternoon.

Hours passed and I completely forgot about it. Then that evening, it snowed. And when I walked out to my front yard the next morning, the bush was half covered in snow and that branch was almost completely buried. I looked at it with regret. I would not be able to share its beauty with my sister-in-law.

Looking at the frozen flowers, I suddenly felt a tug in my heart. “You wasted your chance,” my conscience nagged me. I started asking myself: “Is this how it is in my witness for the Lord? What opportunities did the Lord have for me that I failed to seize?”

Would I, one day, meet the Lord and hang my head in shame when he shows me the plans he had for me and the road that I could have taken had I been more vigilant, more obedient, less lazy?

This year, our Bible class studied Revelation. I have to ask myself if I am an overcomer? Have I lived my life loving our Lord with my first love? Or have I just given lip service with no deeds to match? Has my life shown that I am a follower of Jesus?

My heart is in the right place, I think, and I long to do the things to please him, but am I like the seed among thorns who go on their way “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures” (Luke 8:14)? I can be so easily distracted. Each morning, I utter the prayer to give him all of my heart. Many times through the day I take it all back. Back and forth, back and forth, a tug of war with God.

Revelation showed me the omnipotent God. I read with wonder and adoration of how detailed his plans and how specific his timing are. And yet, in my life, I sometimes worry and act as if he was an uninterested observer. At night, I read his Word again, and it gives me hope and I ask for his forgiveness. As the years go by, I am made more and more aware of how much I miss the mark. It grieves me.

This has been another challenging year for all of us. It saddens me to see what we have gone through. We started off unsure of whether the US would go to war and up to now, we are reminded daily of the consequences of war. I have friends with family in Iraq. I have friends of friends who died of SARS in Singapore. This year has been a hectic one in natural calamities—the coldest winter, one major hurricane, forest fires, mudslides and now that horrific earthquake in Iran. How impotent man is.

And yet, despite its gloom, I live in great hope. There is more than meets the eye. In Revelation he sent the horses, the fire, the earthquakes, the pestilence. Yes, there is punishment, but beneath the tribulation is his desire and call that his people will return to him, that none should perish.

It is his call from the time of Adam, through the history of Israel, through Jeremiah, through John the Baptist, to Revelation --the cry of a father to a wayward, disobedient, self-centered son. Turn back, return to me, repent.

And so as I look around me and see what is befalling us, I hear the longing cry of our Father for his fallen people. What is happening in history convinces me even more of a God in control. Revelation has given me great hope in a great God. A God that is so incredibly patient with all of us sinners. A God who loves us so much.

I felt him tell me so in this parable of the rosemary bush. The frozen flowers made me think twice and change course. “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and compassionate,” the prophet tells us in Joel 2:13. And I offered my grief as a confession for my fallenness.

After the snow melted, I went to the bush and was amazed that the frozen flowers were not destroyed at all (like many other flowering plants). These blooms survived the snow and came back to life. How amazing God is!

They are in my kitchen now, a reminder of God’s miracle and grace. How small I had made him out to be. How great he is! With him, nothing is impossible. He is the resurrection and the life. He is a God of second chances. He knows our frailties, he sees our heart. If we only repent and turn back to him.

With this lesson I am led into the first steps to the new year. Even though I will fail again, my message of hope is repentence and to turn back to this wonder-working God. His truth is life itself and his Word will lead us on. He is the creator of spring, and the creator of winter. He can renew us like he did the rosemary. In response, let us be a fragrant offering to him.