Prayer and Fasting ~ April 2021
Annuals or Perennials ~ the flash or the long haul?
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 15:16-20 (The Message)
If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.
I’m a gardener. I love digging and planting – beds and pots and hanging baskets, all overflowing with flowers and green leaves. Along with the actual work in the dirt, is the preparation, going to the nursery to look for the plants and flowers, deciding which ones will go with which, which pots to use, which flowers will thrive best in which beds.
In my part of the world, another decision is whether to choose annuals or perennials. Annuals are the ones that are only good for a single season because they can’t take the Indiana cold. Annuals are usually extremely vibrant. Many of them have bright, showy colors and big, flashy blooms. They can really spice up a garden in a hurry. Perennials are the ones that come back year after year. They’re pretty too; but they tend to be more subtle – not as much flash, but dependable for beauty over the long haul.
In my neighborhood, many gardens are filled completely with magnificent annuals. It’s a joy to drive by these houses and see the tremendous color. My flowerbeds, on the other hand, tend to be filled with perennials – Shasta daisies, black-eyed Susans, spiderwort, phlox, and daylilies. Long haul flowers that provide me with pleasure year after year; dependable beauties whose green leaves I eagerly await each spring – consistently pleasing, growing larger and fuller with each passing season. Sure, I love annuals; but I save them for my pots and hanging baskets. I want the flash, my garden needs the spice, but it’s the long-haul stuff that sustains me.
When I begin the process of mapping out my garden and I’m faced with the decision of whether to plant an annual or a perennial, I’m reminded of human relationships. It seems our relationships are at their best when they’re filled with lots of perennials – those things that provide beauty over the long haul. Sure, we need flash and spice and color. It’s absolutely essential. But that can’t sustain us for much more than a season. As the summer wears on, colors fade, no matter how much we water – and the first big frost can be a killer.
Our relationships need the foundation that perennials bring. We may add the extra color to enhance the beauty of the things that are lasting; but when the color fades, or the frost comes, we know that beauty remains, however, hidden it may seem. We know that it will return again and that when it does it will be bigger and stronger, fuller and more mature.
It’s true of our relationships and it’s true of our faith. It isn’t the flash that sustains us as we follow in the Jesus way. Paul is right. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. What sustains is the presence of the Holy Spirit that attests to the truth that Christ has been raised. It’s the ongoing awareness of God’s abiding presence, the deep assurance of God’s unconditional love and mercy – those perennial things that provide beauty and fullness even after the hardest winter.
Of course, we need vibrant color in our faith lives – mountaintop experiences, transformative moments of clarity, intense encounters with the divine. But that’s the added spice, the spark that can ignite us but not necessarily sustain us over the winters of our lives.
Sharing our faith requires perennial beauty as well. The Holy Spirit can definitely work like the annual in a garden – adding vibrant color and huge blossoms to enhance the beauty and impact. The Holy Spirit works through experiences where faith is proclaimed boldly and clearly, with drama and intensity. And yet, many times it’s the long-haul relationships that provide the most fertile ground for the Holy Spirit’s work. Those relationships of mutuality, where hopes and dreams are shared, where experiences of faith can be expressed; it’s in those relationships that the Holy Spirit can work in the most powerful, life-transforming ways for the long haul.
It’s still too early in Indiana to begin my gardening projects. It may still freeze or snow so it’s too soon to begin digging and planting. But I’m already thinking about the beautiful flowers that I’ll add to my garden – a few solid perennials to add more permanence to my flowerbeds, some wonderfully brilliant annuals to brighten up a gray day. And once again I’m realizing that it’s the combination of annuals and perennials that make a garden so wonderfully pleasing. It’s my willingness and commitment to include both that makes the whole thing striking.
As the month of April unfolds and we bask in the joy of Easter, I pray that you will allow that joy to add the flash of color you need to enliven your walk with Jesus. I pray as well, that as you continue your journey of prayer and fasting, the truth of the resurrection would not be simply a “little inspiration,” but would take deep root in your heart – deep enough to provide the strength and permanence necessary for the long-haul journey of following Jesus.
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