Planted by the first owners of my house, it grows between the edge of my cement patio and the brick exterior. It’s not the most hospitable of garden spots. And yet it blooms, without attention. Its luxurious red is a welcome sign of early summer.
I get up from my devotions to take a photo of the rose because of this passage in Isaiah:
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God. (Isaiah 35:1-2)
It’s a wonderful picture: an inhospitable landscape is transformed. But my commentary adds something intriguing: this is intended to be a reminder of the Exodus. As God’s people pass through the parched land, it is transformed.
I love this image, and if I had the skill and inclination, I would animate it. (I don’t, so a simple drawing will have to do.). As their feet touch the burning sand, shoots of green appear from each footprint, radiating vibrant life out into the landscape.
This is who we are to be. Everywhere we go, we see beauty and leave it in our wake.
But just like I can’t take credit for my rosebush, the blossoming we bring is not our own. It is the glory and splendor of our God. All beauty points to him.
The link to Exodus is an important reminder. The desert was a means to a greater end. It was not their ultimate destination, even if it did bloom for them. They were headed to the land God had prepared. A permanent place.
As I get older, I wonder if I my increasing awareness of the glory of God in the world around me makes me reluctant to leave it when my time comes. There is a tension in this. I am tempted to think of the blooming desert as my home.
But this week, I found a hymn that speaks to the balance I need. In our day of repeating worship choruses, it is a little wordy but take the time to read it carefully. (Reading it aloud is best.) It builds its thought carefully verse-by-verse – a kind of poetic Jacob’s ladder that leads to Jesus.
My God, I thank thee, who hast made the earth so bright,
so full of splendor and of joy, beauty and light;
so many glorious things are here, noble and right.
I thank thee, too, that thou hast made joy to abound;
so many gentle thoughts and deeds circling us round,
that in the darkest spot of earth some love is found.
I thank thee more that all our joy is touched with pain,
that shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain;
so that earth's bliss may be our guide, and not our chain.
For thou who knowest, Lord, how soon our weak heart clings,
hast given us joys, tender and true, yet all with wings;
so that we see gleaming on high Diviner things.
I thank thee, Lord, that thou hast kept the best in store;
we have enough, yet not too much to long for more:
a yearning for a deeper peace not known before.
I thank thee, Lord, that here our souls though amply blessed,
can never find, although they seek a perfect rest;
nor ever shall, until they lean on Jesus' breast.
Gracious Father, when we look around us in this world, broken as it is, we see your glory. In nature. In acts of kindness. Make the desert bloom around us as we go, Lord! But make that beauty our guide to you and not our chain.
Reader: What beauty in your life makes you most long for the next world?