Monday, December 23, 2013

Love and Joy: Part One

(A story began during the Week of Love earlier this year - a story about a little hibiscus plant - click here to read. During the Week of Joy, the story continued - click here to read. Now, Love and Joy come together in a new story about the same little plant. The following is Part One of that story.)

The days had grown shorter and shorter. The little hibiscus was now settled into her pot but found that the nights and even the days resting before the window were often chilly and dark. She could still peek out into the back yard but the flowers no longer bloomed and she hardly ever saw her animal friends anymore either.

Some days it was so chilly that the compassionate one had to close the blinds to protect her and the other house plants from the cold. Those were especially difficult days for the little hibiscus. Not only did she miss watching the activities of the outside world; it frightened her to go a whole day without seeing even tiny glimpses of light shining forth from her Beloved.

Back during the warm summer days when she had been recuperating before this window, she had seen some like herself growing in the side garden. They were much taller than her and their blossoms were purple instead of red, but she knew from the shape of their leaves and blossoms that they were related.

If she was honest with herself (and she always tried to be), the little hibiscus had to admit that there had been times when she had been envious of those grand purple cousins of hers. O to live on the other side of the glass! To sway in the breeze and to feel her roots expand directly into the earth!

She had longed to experience bees' tiny feet digging into her pollen as they came to drink of her nectar. She could almost imagine the squirrels skipping over her roots and the sparrows chirping at her side. And to feel the Sun's love, warming her leaves during those long summer days...

Yes, she had been envious for a time. At first, she had been so grateful just to survive the awful spider mites that had taken her brother and sister from her. But when she became stronger, she had begun to question her life in the pot behind the window, wondering why she could not be free like the flowers she saw in the garden.

But now, now that the season called "winter" was approaching, the little hibiscus found herself re-thinking her earlier longings.

One day in late fall, when she looked over at the side garden, she was shocked to see that her tall cousins had been cut way back, now appearing to be but barren sticks poking out of the heaps of dead leaves at their roots.

Even more disturbing though was the coming of ice and snow. While they were beautiful to gaze upon from where her pot rested, she realized that her tropical roots would never have survived that. With this realization came a deeper understanding.

While lost in her fantasies of being like the others, she had forgotten the One whose wisdom had brought her to this window for her healing. She had turned her heart from Him - just for a moment it had seemed - and had begun envisioning how much more important she would be, how much grander her life would be if only...

She had not meant to turn away - but she had. And because of this, she felt a deep shame.

However, worse even than the shame was a cold fear that had developed deep inside of her. It was a terror so awful she could barely think it, much less say it aloud.

She longed to share her fear with the compassionate one. Her friend still came around regularly to check her progress or just to visit. However, the little hibiscus found herself withdrawing into herself, hoping her anxiety would go undetected.

But it was not to be.

One day the compassionate one stopped by and fingered her leaves gently, commenting, "I think you have another bud developing here! Look, where your old flower was...the place has closed up again and there seems to be a bit of swelling! How wonderful..."

The little hibiscus had noticed this too but said nothing.

At first the compassionate one had let it go, since she couldn't be sure. But soon it became undeniable. The little hibiscus was budding again.

"Why are you not more excited, my friend?" the compassionate one asked her, after making the rounds and giving her a drink. "This is a lovely bud you have here..."

"I'm...I'm afraid it may not open properly," the little hibiscus stammered in reply. "You know, because it's almost winter now," she added awkwardly in response to her friend's puzzled look.

"Oh dear..." The compassionate one immediately worried. "Have I kept the house too cool for you, my little friend? I'm so sorry..."

"No - no, it's not that," the little hibiscus replied hurriedly, feeling even more horrible that she had upset her friend. "Now I must tell her the truth", she thought to herself. "I cannot hide what I did any longer."

And so they talked. The little hibiscus confessed to her friend about her earlier turning, in her longing for the grand world on the other side of the glass, she had looked away from the One who had healed her. She had even started to imagine that her pot and her life inside the window were holding her back from the freedom and glory that were her due...

The compassionate one was understanding. She too had experienced times of turning away and knew the sorrow that came with them.

"But there is more," the little hibiscus blurted, unable to stop as it all poured out of her. "I am afraid that my Beloved is leaving me. That He is going away and will never return. I am afraid that because I turned away, He is withdrawing His light from me and I will not bloom."

The little hibiscus was so miserable that it was some time before she saw the gentle smile on the face of her friend.

"How can you smile?" she challenged the compassionate one with some hurt and irritation. "Surely you have noticed that He has been coming less and less each day! You cannot deny that His light and warmth are almost gone. Surely it is because of me. We will lose Him to another world - and it will be my fault because I turned away..."

The compassionate one gently stroked the little plant's leaves. "You really have been afraid, haven't you, dear one? You really didn't know."

On into the evening, the compassionate one explained to the little hibiscus about the winter solstice. She told stories about ancient peoples and their rituals, how they had imagined that the Sun was fighting for His survival just as they were fighting for theirs during the cold, dark months. And she explained how they would then rejoice when the times of light became longer again, feeling reassured that, for one more year, He had conquered the forces of darkness.

"It is a great privilege for you to be budding at this time of year, you know," the compassionate one commented into the soft night that had grown around them.

"It is?" The little hibiscus felt curiously humble now.

"It is." The compassionate one pronounced firmly. "Your bud will indeed blossom, though it may take longer and be more painful than when you opened this fall."

The little hibiscus pondered this news with even deeper humility.

"Not only have you been given the privilege of announcing the Solstice," the compassionate one continued, "though that in itself is a great honor. There is something more. However, I cannot tell you of it just yet. Soon you will be ready to understand."

The little hibiscus asked no more questions. And in the hours that followed she felt her opening begin...

(To be continued...)