In March of 2008, in response to a death in the family, a dear friend brought me an orchid. This little plant had three blooms on it - they stayed for a long, long time, then one by one fell off. Not knowing for sure what to expect, I carefully watered the little plant regularly and was greatly excited when a new shoot came forth from the stem. Even though it didn’t look a lot like the stem that had produced the three flowers, I was sure that was what it must be so I carefully tied the little shoot so it would grown up, though its natural bent was to grow straight west from the stem. The little, sprout headed upward with a westerly veer to its growth and, after I don’t know how much time the original stem produced two more blooms.
These little blooms did their part to brighten my life for several weeks then one by one fell off. So what would come next? It was several weeks later that I noticed another of the fat, fleshy sprouts heading west from the stem. Soon there were several headed in all four directions and places in between. What are these things? What are they for? I decided they must be roots that would eventually bury themselves in the soil and the plant would grow a lot bigger. But I didn’t want a bigger plant!! I had no place to put it.
At this point I called the florist to see if it would be OK just to cut them all off. “Oh, no!” she said, “You might kill the plant.” Though she was certain that ‘cut off’ these ugly shoots would be the demise of the plant, she was not sure what they were. She suggested I bring it in and let the florist tell me. And that was the plan!
But, in the meantime, a neighbor had given me a pretty outer pot for my little orchid so my decision was, since I couldn’t cut them off, I didn’t have to look at them. So I stuffed them all down between the two pots. Out of sight, out of mind so it was mnay weeks before I took my orchid to the florist.
When she saw what I had done she was aghast. “The plant can’t breathe.” she said as she pulled them all out and I brought my plant home with tentacles sticking out every which direction. Ugly, yes but now they could feed the plant. One day when I was ‘ugh’-ing how much I disliked the look of these shoots, I couldn’t help but think what a great illustration of the hurt and pain in our lives that they illustrated.
Hurt and pain are neither pretty nor comfortable but there is no doubt in my mind that they are necessary. I know of no character in the Bible who fulfilled the great purposes of God outside of pain. And when we think about it for just a minute, it doesn’t take long to realize that the pain came from diverse sources: Joseph from the mistreatment of others but the pain served to illustrate the providence of God, Job from intense physical and mental pain, which if not caused by God, certainly used by God to sear on the hearts of those who will listen the absolute sovereignty of God, David whose hurt and pain, for the most part, was the product of his own sinfulness. But David’s pain and sorrow has been, down through the ages, the stellar example of God’s forgiveness second only to the Cross of Christ
But, very much as I did with the ugly orchid tentacles, we try to hide the hurt and pains of our lives - the pain of our own failures, the pain of betrayal by others, the pain of loss of all sorts of things - job, finances, children gone from home, death of someone we love and so on, and the disappointment in just life itself. The result is much like the result when I tried to hide the ugly tentacles of my orchid. Our soul can’t breathe!
Elizaeth Lesser in her book ’Borken Open’ said this: “Adversity is a natural part of being human. It is the height of arrogance to prescribe a moral code or health regime or spiritual practice as an amulet to keep things from falling apart. Things DO fall apart. It is in their nature to do so. When we try to protect ourselves from the inevitability of change, we are not listening to the soul. We are listening to our fear of life and death, our lack of faith, our smaller egos will to prevail. To listen to the soul (to God - parenthesis mine) is to stop fighting with life - to stop fighting when things fall apart; when they don’t go our way; when we get sick, when we are betrayed or mistreated or misunderstood. To listen to the soul is to slow down, to feel deeply, to see ourselves clearly, to surrender to discomfort and uncertainty, and to wait.”
Will you look at my orchid again with me? One day not long after all the ugly shoots were exposed, I noticed that a number of them had wilted and shriveled up and the leaves of the orchid looked so much healthier. But new ugly tentacles keep coming. Again I was reminded of our hurt and pain! Stuffed away it only festers and causes us all kinds of problems. But acknowledged, in most cases shared with another human being, and always given to God for His tool to teach us what He wants us to learn, the pain has meaning and soon is pain no more. But since we always need to go a step higher spiritually, those pain tentacles reappear and a new lesson must be learned. This is the journey of life!