It was a cold and somewhat snowy mid-April morning. Standing outside in my coat and scarf, I held tightly to the leash as the dog sniffed the ground. Looking over, I noticed the peonies. They had begun their spring growth with faith and confidence that this season would be their best. As they had poked their heads out of the ground at their earliest chance, they began to sprout their best red apparel. I’m sure it didn’t take much time for them to realize this wasn’t a typical spring.
This particular spring has been unpredictable. Weather colder than usual. Easter snow. The seven day weather pattern seemed to include lower temperatures and snow into the middle of April. These peonies didn’t seem to have a fighting chance. But they didn’t know it. They fought for life like their life depended on it. And it did.
I wondered how strong and deep was the foundation of these peonies. Oh. In seasons past, they hadn’t fared so well. They were planted in a beautiful setting overlooking the wooded ravine. As they grew in the springtime, they were full of promise and hope. But as the trees bloomed and the leaves spread their wings, the peonies seemed to fade. They no longer had the ability to reach their full potential. The leafy trees shaded the peonies so well that their buds failed to open. At best only one or two buds ever flowered.
In good faith, I had surrounded each of them with the old tomato cages from years past. Rusty and lopsided, they would do their job for another season. You see. This year only three peony plants arose from the soil. Previous years had four plants. But not this spring. Only three plants had survived the winter and decided to brave an unwelcoming spring.
Such disappointment. Such lost hope. Such wasted potential. Sometimes what seems to be an obvious showstopper is sometimes stopped before the show starts. It seems a total waste.
This spring has sure been a disappointment.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! Habakkuk 3:17-18
My spring had started out strong. I had hope and confidence that this year would be the best ever. No specific reason for that. But hope was running high. Little did I know that before winter had blown over, my confidence in the year would be blown away. I had to find new reasons for hope. I had to dig deep to find confidence. I had to rely upon my stronghold of faith that had grown over the years. Sometimes it didn’t feel enough.
I will always remember that day. It started out on an even note. Actually, though. If I think about it, it didn’t. Someone said something to me that morning that really bothered me. I wanted to talk to someone important about the words, but I hesitated. Later, as I walked back in the building at lunch time, I saw her heading out the door. I mentioned that she probably wouldn’t want to come back in. It was a nice day. I just have to get out of here for awhile. She said. Oh well. I though. The day must not be going so well for her.
Little did I know that she held a secret that would change my life. Two hours later we met in a closed room. There I learned that I was no longer employed. My job was done. Just like that. In an instant, I went from earning a decent paycheck to the unemployment line. For no good reason. I see why her day wasn’t going so well. She knew that she was about to upset my life. And apparently, it upset her. But she did it anyway.
I have been growing roots in my Christian walk for many years. Sometimes those roots have been tested. The winds of change and heartache have blown. The years of tests and trials have stretched those roots until they’ve almost snapped. But through each test and trial and heartache and loss, I’ve dug deep into the Word to gain strength needed for each day.
The past few years have been good. Easy. In fact. I knew that a new day would come that would produce a new heartache. A new trial. I knew that I would be tested again. I want to say I was ready for it. But. Really.
Oh. Sure. I had kept myself in God’s Word. Studying. Praying. Staying close to God. I’ve worked to keep my roots strong and deep and sheltered. I’ve sat those old tomato cages of faith in place to hold me up when the burdens weigh me down. But when life is good. When the flowers are in full bloom. When the tomato cages are holding me strong. It’s easy to forget about the tough times. It’s easy to overlook the daily conversations I should have with my Lord. It’s easy to take care of myself. It’s easy to think I don’t need help.
But this time. I find I’m holding on for dear life. I find that the old tomato cages aren’t as strong as they once were. The rusty metal has seen better days. The uneven legs are wobbly. Oh. I had filled my well full of everlasting water. But I find I’m taking bigger drinks than I have in the past. I’ve been told that the well never goes dry. I’m holding onto that promise and looking for the peonies to bloom.