Next Tuesday would have been our mother’s 89th birthday. Born near the beginning of the Great Depression, she grew up through some pretty hard times, but thanks to the diligence and frugality of her mom and dad, they managed to make it through and were better for it in many ways.
One of the simple pleasures mom learned to enjoy was wildflowers. She always appreciated plants of all types and many can remember her work in her flowerbed on Saumsville Road to bring glory to God by cultivating some of his colorful creations.
Years ago, when we were all much younger, I remember our family taking a hike on the Massanutten Mountain. There was an old logging road that would take us about halfway up so dad parked at the base of the mountain and we all piled out. Since the land near the bottom was in pasture, we would pass through some open land before entering the woods.
As we started our upward ascent, mom noticed some beautiful wildflowers blooming along the edge of the trail. Without hesitation, she stooped to pick one only to draw back with a shriek of pain. The flowers she sought to pick were those of the prickly pear cactus and were well guarded by the thin, needlelike thorns that cover these plants. Unfortunately, some of these stickers embedded themselves in her fingers and she carried home a reminder to enjoy these particular blossoms from a distance.
Whenever we siblings remember that story, it brings a smile to our faces for it reminds us of that day and our mother’s good intentions. We also learned at her expense to leave these wildflowers alone and select more friendly violets, daisies, and buttercups for our wild bouquets.
This painful lesson has spiritual implications as well. Many times, our senses are attracted to something beautiful around us. It may be the allure of money, fame, sex, or prestige. Drawn by its tempting appearance, we endeavor to seize it that we might fully enjoy all it has to offer, only to be badly injured in the process. While there is nothing wrong with any of these when enjoyed within their biblical boundaries, they are often found in settings fraught with thorns and stickers.
No matter how much surgical precision we employ, it’s still virtually impossible to pick a prickly pear flower without suffering the pointed consequences. Despite our best efforts to extract these flowers from their thorny settings, we inevitably end up worse for our selfish pursuits. In similar fashion, we can strive to enjoy sin’s pleasures without suffering its penalties, but sooner or later, its thorns will pierce us. We all bear ugly soul scars of past sinful quests.
Aside from the simple reminder to resist attractive temptations, mom’s experience also can inform us to learn from others. Because of her well-intended mistake, all of us children learned to steer clear of these blossoms, too. Someone wise once observed, “We don’t live long enough to make all the mistakes ourselves so we should learn from those of others.” All of us know people who have self-inflicted wounds from some past sinful act. Let’s learn from them even as they can from us.
Perhaps the greatest lesson here is to realize that although we’ve all picked sin’s flowers, Jesus stepped forward to bear its thorns. Isaiah reminds us that, “He was pierced for our transgressions… and by his wounds, we are healed.” Even though we foolishly disobeyed and sought to possess forbidden pleasures, Jesus willingly transferred our spiritual injury to himself and carried it to the cross. We, however, must personally repent and accept what he has done in order to receive His forgiveness. If you’ve never done so, call out to him today and do exactly that.
As our family remembers our mother’s birthday next week, we will continue to fondly recall many stories that we lived with her over the years and look forward to seeing her again in heaven. In the meantime, we’re going to do our best to avoid the thorns of sin as well as those of the prickly pear. Blessings, George