The other day as I sat in my kitchen, one of Pastor Chris’s recent sermons came to mind. I found myself chuckling: I remembered the kids reading “expiration dates” on various food items he’d brought in from home, including the Twinkie, which was so full of preservatives it would apparently last forever! Then I sobered up as I remembered the serious analogy Chris had drawn from this lighthearted game of show and tell: That we all have an expiration date because of sin—and unless we deal with that terminal condition, nothing we value, including our very lives, will truly “keep.”
As I sat there thinking, my mind began to wander to the beautiful flowers on the dining room table in front of me. A Valentine gift from my husband, they were really starting to come into their own now. Over the past few days the arrangement had almost doubled in size because some of the buds that had originally been closed were now opening up in full splendor. A bouquet that had started out with only small red and purple flowers now boasted extravagant lavender and ivory blossoms as well. It was truly breathtaking!
But in an instant, a new realization changed my whole perspective. These are cut flowers, I thought. They’re going to die. Even though the new buds had blossomed and were behaving for all the world like a “live” plant, every single one of these flowers was, in fact, already dead. The truth then struck with double force as I suddenly pictured a pruned rose bush standing next to the cut flowers. The rose bush looked ugly, and quite honestly, dead as a doornail, while the bouquet looked fresh and alive and full of promise. But the reverse was actually true! At most, the cut flowers would last only a few days, while the rose bush would, all things being equal, probably live for years and years to come, possibly even producing fuller and more beautiful roses as a result of its barren season of pruning. I felt a strange mixture of sadness and excitement.
My mind then wandered back to my beautiful Valentine bouquet sitting in front of me. No woman, when her husband or boyfriend brings her flowers, thinks to herself, “Hey buddy, what’s the idea of bringing me a bunch of dead plants?” But unromantic as it sounds, that’s the reality! And no one who looks at a worldly person who seems “to have it all” thinks, “Oh, that poor person is dead in their sins.” But they are. They may blossom and grow intellectually, creatively, financially, even relationally; but spiritually speaking, unless they have been made alive in Christ, they are already dead. And when they reach their “expiration date” this side of heaven, they will suffer loss—no matter the amount of lush foliage or breathtaking blooms they may seem to have sprouted. They are rootless, and cannot sustain life.
Depressing as this sounds (especially just after Valentine’s Day!) there is still good news. VERY good news. Because the exact opposite of this scenario is also true. Those whose lives are truly grounded in God (those whose sins have been forgiven, and have been made “alive in Christ”) really, truly will live forever! Even if, during times of pruning, their branches happen to look barren and dead. Because what’s most important is their roots. ROOTS LIVE: cut flowers don’t. It’s as simple as that.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6, NIV)
In all honesty, I will probably still be delighted the next time my husband brings me flowers. (After all, it’s a beautiful gesture, and very romantic!) But from now on, they will also be a “fresh” reminder to cry out with all my heart, “Oh Lord, plant my roots DEEP in You!”