“Would you like to open a music store again?”
I asked the (mostly) rhetorical question of the Lovely Lady the other day as we drove past the building where we had operated such a store for many years. I didn’t expect a positive answer.
I got one anyway.
“Yes, in a lot of ways, I wish we could.”
Though driving down a busy street, my eyes were instantly glued to her face, attempting to read the real story there. Wistfulness, I thought. Perhaps even reminiscence of our youth and once vivid dreams for the future.
We both laughed. It won’t happen and we know it. There were valid reasons for closing the little store a few years ago and they haven’t changed. Still, it seems we often sense a yearning for days past.
No, we won’t own a music store again. That doesn’t mean we’re finished. We’re not ready to sit down and begin the long (or short) wait for God.
But I am realizing this important thing: We all, young or old, have a need to be of use to folks around us. It’s a desire built deep into the human spirit.
We need to be needed.
I talked with him tonight, the old preacher. Many years, he’s spent on this planet — most of them in one pulpit or another, teaching the Word of God.
Nearly two years ago, he said goodbye to his last permanent congregation. His family breathed a sigh of relief, thinking with him that the time had come for him to rest and enjoy life. But, that’s just it; he doesn’t enjoy life if he’s not preaching.
And, as we spoke on the phone tonight, he let me know he would be standing in the pulpit again starting next month.
“It’s not permanent,” he hastened to explain as if what I thought mattered. “I’m just filling in for a few weeks.”
For some reason, hearing his words, I thought about the flowers. I know, it makes no sense, but it is the way my brain works.
You’ve seen them before — the surprise lilies. They go by other names, these oddities of nature. Resurrection lilies. Magic lilies. And yes, naked ladies.
It is August in Arkansas, so the surprise lilies are standing proudly in yards and fields all around me. There is a row of them in my front yard, even. They’re not so much of a surprise, after all. I knew right where to look for them.
In the spring, after the dreary, cold days of winter, all of the bulbs seemed to explode with greenery and color. The daffodils, the crocuses, and the irises too — all of them were working to outdo each other with colors and showy blossoms. All of them, that is, except the surprise lilies.
The only thing that pops up in the spring from the bulbs these lovelies keep hidden underground is greenery. Lots of broad, green leaves. They are beautiful in their own right, but not all that awe-inspiring. Still, I know by now to be patient. I protect the growth, allowing it to cover the ground, doing its work.
Making promises for the future.
And then, just like that — about the same time as the daffodils and the irises, the green leaves turn brown and die. Gone. Finished. Rotting into the ground. Or, so it seems.
Months pass. Nothing. Grass covers over the place where the bulbs cower under the dirt. Nothing to see here, folks. Move on.
But, the end of July comes.
The hot sun beats down. The grass grows crunchy underfoot. And suddenly, in the last full month of the summer, the plants erupt from the ground.
There is not a leaf to be seen. A beautiful, thin stalk with multiple buds atop it grows within a couple of days to two feet tall. The buds cannot open fast enough into their brilliant pink blossoms.
They are glorious! Perhaps more so because of their delayed appearance. Every year, I wonder if this will be the year they fail. Every year, during the last week of July, they keep their promises made in the springtime.
People are not flowers. I know that. But, again and again, I see folks defying the odds — age, handicaps, illnesses — to keep the promises of youth.
It is a mistake for us to look at circumstances and count anyone, including ourselves, out of the game.
There are no has-beens. Every one of us who is still breathing is still becoming.
The disciple who spoke so often of love said it well, I think:
Loved ones, we are already children of God, but it is not clear yet what we will become. When we are with Christ, then it will be clear as crystal, and we will be just like Him. (1 John 3:2 ~ my paraphrase)
I may be covered up with dirt and hiding right now, but just wait!
The glorious part is still to come. It won’t be because of my own abilities and cobbled-together plans, but because of the Creator and His master plan.
Do you think you’re finished? Does it look like no one needs you? Don’t count yourself out!
Did I tell you the preacher is eighty-nine years old? He says he’s got another thirty years in him. I’m not quite sure he’s joking.
Perhaps, we could all take a lesson from the old preacher’s favorite scripture as we anticipate the next step in our becoming:
‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.’
(Jeremiah 29:11, NET)
No, we can’t go back to the past again. But what comes next promises to be spectacular.
And, maybe a little bit surprising.
I’d like to think the best of me
Is still hiding up my sleeve.
(from No Such Thing ~ John Mayer ~ 2001)
So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.
(Job 42:12a, NLT)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2019. All Rights Reserved.