Tuesday, April 24, 2012

If something seems dead: a hibiscus and being a friend to sinners

Last year I bought a hibiscus while in coastal Florida and brought it home. I loved the color of the big full blooms and enjoyed them all spring and summer. In the fall, as frost threatened, I put it in the backyard studio intending to water it over the winter, so it’d come back in the spring.

But…I forgot to water, and when I finally checked on it, the barren branches screamed neglect.


A couple of weeks ago, I was at a family member’s house and saw a hibiscus on their patio leafing out.

“In the garage all winter,” I was told. “Maybe watered it twice.”

Oh, if I’d only remembered to water and mourned the loss of the plant, knowing it’d be unlikely to find one like it locally.

I went home and took my lost cause plant out of the studio intending to throw it on the leaf pile near the road and reuse the pot. As I did, I remembered what my gardening neighbor Mell used to say. “Don’t give up on a plant,” he’d advised. “Just hang on to it, give it water, and sometimes they come back.”

I suppose he’d learn over a lifetime that often when things seem dead, that given time and nurture, they could still revive.

Well, I did what Mell said. I soaked the plant and put the scraggly thing out in the sun.

I’ve checked on it several times over the past two weeks. Nothing but brown branches, but at least Lucy hadn’t made a chew toy out of it. This morning, again, at first I saw no sign of life.


Then, as I bent closer, down near the roots, a few tiny little leaves sprouted.

I wanted to have a parade. I hadn’t killed the hibiscus after all. My neighbor Mell had been right.

I was so happy I even made Jerry go out and look at it.

For my sake, he feigned rejoicing. I think I’ve mentioned before that he’s not big on gardening.

But as I’ve reflected on my hibiscus, I thought of some words by Andrew Murray that I underlined in With Christ in the School of Prayer.

“Instead of being hopeless or judging or giving up those who fall, let us pray for our circle, ‘Father! Keep them in Thy Name;’ “Sanctify them through Thy truth.’ Prayer in the Name of Jesus availeth much; ‘What ye will shall be done unto you.’”

As the water and sun were to my plant, hope, prayer, and God’s word are to those who appear to be dead to the life in Christ.

Given nurture and time, God’s work becomes evident.

I’ve been listening to a song over and over from Casting Crowns. Can’t share the lyrics because of copyright issues, but listen here to “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.”

At one point in my life, I was for sure a lost cause. In fact, because of the way I was living, someone close to me once said, “I can’t help you anymore.”

But somehow, a few did persevere in prayer. And God redeemed my life.

All these years later, I’m sad to say there are times, when I look at someone’s life and wonder if there’s hope. And the words out of my mouth just cause more hurt.

I don’t want to ever forget what God has done for me. I want to be a friend to sinners even in the direst circumstances.

God’s all about raising the dead. Let’s pray for his heart and his eyes to see the people around us. God, help us be a friend to sinners.

I’m going out to stare at my hibiscus. There’s just something amazing about seeing dead things come back to life.

"It wasn't so long ago that you wire mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience...It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper... Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ" (Ephesians 2:1-5 The Message).

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