Watching flowers wilt and return to freshness helped Nicole Law understand better the great Christian mystery of Christ’s rising from the dead.
A friend of mine recently gifted me a bunch of brightly coloured blooms for my birthday. I fingered the petals and realised that carrying the flowers around with me on a sweltering day had caused them to start to wilt.
Upon returning home, I cut the stems while they were submerged underwater and placed the flowers in a vase of fresh water. Instead of busying myself that afternoon, I idly watched them start to straighten up and bloom again, turning themselves towards the evening sun. The flowers seemed to have undergone a ‘rejuvenation’ of sorts.
The past 40 days of the Lenten season have been similar to the wilted blooms. It has been a season of detachment for those of us who are Christians through voluntary acts of self-denial, much like how the flowers themselves must be cut away from the main plant for us to enjoy them as single stalks.
The detachment from disordered desires or unhealthy attachments has involved a separation and a journey into our own personal ‘deserts’ where, as explained in an earlier article, we sort out and learn to control our passions.
It has also been a season of pruning – a reevaluation of the habits that have taken root in our lives. The pruning can appear painful. A swift movement of the blade to sever our connection with some of our baser cravings and inclinations involves a reordering of our lives.
This might involve taking more time to sit in quiet prayerful contemplation instead of getting sucked into trending content online. It could mean adopting a more open heart to our loved ones and learning to forgive them anew every day.
As a Christian, the wilted blooms remind me of the lifeless body of Christ on the cross, which forms the narrative of Good Friday. We watch as Jesus, who endured the pain and humiliation of being condemned to death, steadily wilts as his strength starts to falter.
Likewise with the flower, though wilted, the bloom still retains its beauty. Even a dried and shrunken flower, exposed to the elements, is a thing to behold. This might be why we preserve these flowers, pressing them into bookmarks for safekeeping or adorning our living spaces with them. There is an inalienable beauty in the wilted bloom.
The season that follows Good Friday is known as Easter, a time we associate with new life and spring.
As I watched the wilted blooms come back to life in the jar of water, I bore witness to the power of even the natural world to breathe new life into what may be considered ‘dead’.
Yes, Christ was sealed away in the tomb for three days. By most accounts, he was considered dead – a wilted bloom that was unsalvageable. This appeared to be the case for the wilted blooms too at first, until they started to take in water and regain their original lustre.
Perhaps even in our own lives, we have undergone the difficult process of ‘death’ – a dying to ourselves and our desires, a death to our old disaffected selves, the death of self-serving habits. Yet, there is also the ‘resurrection’, the promise that with ‘death’ there is also the ‘life’ which follows.
To resurrect means to ‘rise from the dead’. Christ rose from the tomb after three days as he conquered death and sin – the wilted flower that blooms in all its glory. We also experience life anew, as we emerge from our tombs of shame and fear. When we are free from the shackles of behaviours which entrap our hearts and minds, we are free to live in freedom, in the glorious light that bathes the wilted bloom.
The poem ‘The Bright Field’ by RS Thomas comes to mind as I contemplate the beauty of the dawn that breaks as Easter arrives.
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you
May the Easter season be a time of renewal and ‘resurrection’ for you, whether you are a Christian or not, as you step into a season of newness. May you like the wilted bloom turn towards the evening sun, towards the ,’brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you’.
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