Now they prepare for a new season. They’ll lie still and quiet under the heavy blanket of snow this winter. But they’ll be back next Spring, inching back out of the ground when it’s safe – in greater number and strength they’ll come.
Come summer they’re sure to burst forth again, filling the long side of our house with life. This is the way of things. Sure as sure.
I always take a picture of them in their glory. Right about July. They make me smile there – tall and proud with their deep yellow petals and their big black center.
This year, though, I missed my July photo. We were so busy that I barely stopped to notice them there.
Ironically, I was struck instead by their beauty in a different season. This one. Right now, as they lay dying. I didn’t notice it before but there is another kind of beauty in them at this stage. It’s a stark kind of beauty. One that comes after the glory.
Because they have spent themselves for something wonderful.
They are depleted and exhausted by their summer effort. Their proud stems are bending over and most of their petals have dropped. A few hang on… reminders of the glory.
There is something beautiful about that dying. Something that stirs in my soul as I contemplate the shriveled leaves and the scattered petals.
So strong is our longing for the glory, that sometimes I think we miss the beauty of this. Jesus didn’t. He knew that the dying had its own kind of splendor. In speaking of His own pending death He said this: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
We’re not so sure about this. In his short piece on repentance, William Willimon said it this way: “Whatever the Gospel means, we tell ourselves, it could not mean death. Love, divine or human, could never exact something so costly.”
Could it really mean that Jesus bids me come and die? And that there is really some beauty in that? A glory of its own?
In the agony of having my petals stripped clean by a rebellious child or a selfish friend, there is beauty? When I pour myself out for my kids and I have nothing left but shriveled leaves and a blackened nub? When I am bent low by the harsh winds of this world and insensitive demands of others? When no one even notices me? Beauty? There?
Jesus says there is. Will we believe Him? Will we come and die, laying our own desires aside? Spending our days serving others? Giving instead of buying? Going instead of relaxing? Sacrificing instead of indulging? Submitting instead of demanding?
And after we have been spent, what then? Will we yield to Winter and wait for Spring to call forth new life from the very ground where the spent petals lay?
Nature echoes it. The Black-Eyed Susans attest to this truth. Spend yourself and see, they say.