April Alive

“And by a miracle God sent them food to eat and water to drink there in the desert; they drank the water that Christ gave them. He was there with them as a mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment.” – I Corinthians 10:3-4 TLB

We have a rose garden at the home in California where we have lived for the last three years. By the time April comes each spring, I can hardly wait to watch the roses begin to blossom and bloom. I eagerly go outside every morning, in both the front and back yard, to see if a new bud is emerging. It is a daily ritual that my family finds very humorous. To look at the plants before the blossoms appear is no great treat, as they are scraggly and covered in thorns. But, oh, when just one rose blooms, it changes everything! It starts out small, simple and plain. And then when it opens, the colors come to life and the fragrance fills the whole yard.

My amazement does not stop there; that is just the beginning. As the days progress, more roses begin to bloom. No two are the same; not even on the same vine. They are unique in shape and color, some showing more multicolor definition than others. Some bloom quickly, while others take their time to enjoy every minute of the exquisite process. To admire a rose from a distance is far different than experiencing it’s journey to beauty up close, on a daily basis.

When the first autumn came at our home, I had such a dilemma with the rose bushes. I had read that rose bushes needed to be pruned. But, they looked so healthy to me – still green and full. There were, of course, not many blooms at that time of year, but still they did not look like they needed to be cut back. And then, there was the fact that we live in sunny California where it rarely even ever reaches freezing temperatures. So, in my extremely limited knowledge and expertise, I decided to test the pruning theory. We only trimmed back some of the bushes and let the rest remain full and green. While those pruned back looked so pathetic and forlorn, the others looked alive through the entire fall and winter seasons. I felt pretty good about that decision and surmised that all the pruning talk must be for every bush outside of Orange County, CA.

April came that next year, and the bushes which had been pruned burst into vibrant life again. They produced numerous and gorgeous roses, healthy looking, full, robust, fragrant and longstanding. But my brainstorm bushes, the ones I didn’t have the heart to cut back, and the ones we enjoyed in their dormant state throughout the winter…they did not offer many colorful and rich blooms. In fact, very few roses fought their way through and meekly bloomed and withered.

Wow, what a vivid picture of our hearts and lives! While we dislike the winter seasons of life, we try to avoid the pruning process at all costs. Oh, it can hurt, bend, test every bone in our body, leave us dry and lonely, and cause pain, even deep physical or emotional pain. But, those shaping, pruning and refining seasons are the glorious moments that create the very depth, heart, character and beauty of who you are at the core. In the midst of them, you may not look or feel very good about your state of being. Your thorns may be sharp and plentiful, you may be scraggly looking, and you may have to stay near the ground, bent down – even on your knees to get through.

Then it comes. Wait for it. One morning you take a deep breath, in the tent of God’s forgiveness and grace and healing where you have been camped, and you sense the promise of a new day, a new season. And from that moment, an aliveness comes that involves all the senses. It is radiant with a dimension only possible when produced by God. The harvest that comes in the “Aprils” of your life is a fragrant offering of beauty and multi-toned color and life and energy with an unmistakable and pronounced testimony of God’s grace and power.

We celebrated Resurrection Sunday this month. Life began when Jesus rose from the grave. When all hope was gone, when it seemed death had defeated, when darkness crept in, when discouragement and shame threatened to conquer – Jesus rose from the grave! That changed everything! Every season, every sin, every problem and trial, every fear, every illness, every shame – every single thing of this life is covered by the blood and grace of Jesus Christ!

If you are walking through a pruning season right now, take heart. There is good and growth and beauty and opportunity and blessing in the journey. God is right there with you. Walk forward in faith. Walk forward with purpose. Do the hard stuff. Recognize your pruning, receive it and grow from it in character and in truth. This April is alive, and is for you. And you are a glorious representation of Christ. Let His beauty and transforming power WOW someone who’s watching you bloom!

“Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to Him so He can cleanse away your sins and send you wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord”. Acts 3:19 TLB