Everyday Christian: When good things die

Confessions of a flower separator

I had a minor surgery at the start of last week and spent the rest of the week in hospital or at home in bed – which was equal parts frustrating and a welcome break.

When I returned home from hospital, flowers had been delivered from work. They were placed on a bookshelf in my bedroom, directly in front of me when lying in bed. They were beautiful – icy-pink lilies, gerberas and roses, and white snapdragons and white daisies.

After a few days of lying in bed, I ventured all the way down the stairs and grabbed a few different smaller vases. I spread a large beach towel on my bed, along with my scissors, the vases and a bottle of water. Then I took the wonderful arrangement and laid it on the bed, sat back in bed and leaned against my pillows. I dragged the towel close and began to dismantle the my beautiful floral arrangement.

I am a flower separator.

I am a flower separator, you see. It’s not that I don’t like flowers in an arrangement – I really do. And I recognise that floristry really is an art – and one that I lack.

But I just prefer my flowers in small vases everywhere. And I’d rather see four roses crowded into a small vase, than competing for attention with lilies and snapdragons. You know how attention-seeking lilies can be.

I always feel a bit bad when I dismantle a floral arrangement I’ve been sent – and I always dismantle floral arrangements. I feel as if the person who sent them to me would feel like they might as well have stopped in at the local grocery store and bought a couple of bunches of plain flowers and sent me those. But it doesn’t bother me enough to put a stop to my obsessive floral arrangement dismantling ways.

Anyway. The lilies – for all their flair and flamboyance – kicked the bucket first and were taken downstairs to the bin. But the others lasted admirably, all the way into this week until finally, I decided I had to let them go.

Looking at them, gathered in the hallway outside my bed, I thought that it was kind of poetic the way that we send flowers to people who are facing a tough season. They cheer them up for a week or so, providing some beauty in a time of pain or loss. And then they die, and the person has no choice but to go and take them to the garbage bin or the compost heap and throw them out. The time for the flowers to bring comfort is over and the person has to take a few steps – painful though they may be – and enter a new season.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” – John 12.24

I immediately thought of the verse in John 12.24 when Jesus is approaching his death and tells his disciples “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (NIV)

Jesus goes on to say “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Throwing flowers out – even a week after surgery – can be a bit painful, but I have learned it’s nothing like throwing out flowers that symbolise loss and heartache. It’s nothing like when the season behind is one of grieving someone you love who has died. That was a lesson I learned last year.

But there’s still something to be embraced in these cycles of life, these ways God has always worked in nature, in our hearts, and even in his redemptive plan for humanity.

And though I suspect I won’t ever find it easy to embrace the death of a good thing, at least I can be certain God knows exactly how I feel.