“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13
Tonight, while in prayer asking God for guidance, the image of the rose came to mind.
“Then you will go call upon Me, and go pray to Me, and I will listen to you…”
In many ways, our walk with God is a lot like a rose. We start off in our budding faith, not yet blossomed and soon, once we grow, the beauty begins to unfold, one petal at a time.
Sipping on my morning coffee, I was still trying to clear the cobwebs from my head when I reached the end of the driveway and turned left toward the eastern sunrise. The note had read, “We need Milk!,” so I was off to the grocery for a pre-Church Sunday morning run. The birds were cheerfully greeting the new dawn, and the chill was refreshing.
It was then I noticed him, suddenly appearing before me.
“Morning,” came my voice, more of a reaction to my surprise than an actual greeting.
“Morning,” he replied as we both turned toward the rising sun, each now walking in the same direction, but on opposite sides of the street.
My first instinct was to turn around and start over. “No, that will just show fear,” came the voice from inside. So I stayed the course. It was not yet 7:00 AM and the street was as barren as my thoughts at that moment. In his right hand, he carried a burgundy Members only jacket, wadded up in a roll as if it had been his pillow from the night before. In his left, he prodded each step with what appeared to be a five-foot long quarter inch piece of white PVC pipe; his makeshift walking stick.
“Visiting family,” I asked, wondering why he had appeared from behind my neighbor’s house.
“You might say that,” he nodded.
The folds of my mind wandered along each petal as I sought beauty when there was none. “Surely he had seen me before I saw him. He’ll be asking for something next,” my mind fought the urge to question but gave in once again.
“And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart…”
We continued to walk uphill toward the tree line at the end of the road where the trail began, each man walking along his own side of the road, each man as distant in life but both now walking the same path.
“Are you from the area?”
“You might say that,” he reflected in a distant voice. Then he surprised me by leading the next question, “By the way, my name’s Jeremy.”
“My name’s Timothy…as in first and second,” I said, now humbled by his demeanor. For some reason, I felt a little less threatened. Yet, just a few steps ahead stood the dark passage of the narrow trail only wide enough for one person at a time.
I momentarily looked toward the sunrise and breathed a silent prayer, “Lord, please be with me, comfort me and shield me from all evil.”
“I know the thoughts I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil…”
“Do you smoke,” he asked next.
“Here it comes,” I thought, “the begging for money to buy cigarettes.”
“No, never have,” I replied boldly.
There was no further question. The silence that followed allowed the flood of negative thoughts to come rolling back into my head. In the uneasy moment, I spoke before he might ask the question I expected, “You know, Jeremiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible.”
In fact, the verse had recently resurfaced to my consciousness when Mark, the leader of the Waldensian Church Men’s Breakfast Bible study, had mentioned it in his presentation. A few years before, my friend and pastor, Thomas Simpson had given it to me as a guiding principle for what I was going through at the time; it became my hope, my future.
“Jeremy is short for Jeremiah, which is my real name,” he replied.
“You know what,” somewhat relieved. “In fact, Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite verses.”
We both stopped and looked at one another. Before us, the darkness of the night still hung in the air under the dark trees that stood along the pathway.
“The moment of truth,” I whispered under my breath, as I ducked my head under the first branch and led the way. I envisioned the feeling of pain across the back of my neck as he would soon swing the PVC pipe against my head. With a crack, my skull would be split open, and my body would be found lying upon the exposed roots of the forest floor later that morning. Once more I thought of God’s protection and waited for whatever was to come.
The misty drops of the morning dew gathered along the rim of the precious rose, it’s succulent image played in my mind as we two strangers trod upon the darkened forest floor. The path as tortuous as the edge of the delicate flower.
“How does it go,” came the voice from behind.
The fear of the unknown vanished as quickly as the imagery of doubt and along with it, the scripture for which I had just referenced. In vain my mind stretched from one end of the spectrum to the next in an attempt to revive the words; nothing.
We both emerged from the woods onto the pavement next to the grocery store. The sunlight caused us to squint as we emerged from the darkness.
“I…I…can’t get it,” was my struggled reply.
“Give me a start,” he begged.
Again, my mind raced, but all I could grasp was simply the meaning, like the fragrance of the rose to the unseen eyes.
“I apologize, but I just can’t recall it at the moment.” My heart was broken, for once again I felt I had failed God. Once more, my chance to witness to another soul in need had been lost, but I didn’t give in. Digging deep into the recess of the innermost parts of the roses beauty I found the essence for what it stood, “I can’t start it, but it goes something like this…” As I summarized the scripture, he listened in rapt attention. His journey had been momentarily lifted by the flawed but persistent believer. I explained its overall meaning that if we follow God faithfully with all our heart and soul that we would be rewarded.
“Like with riches and gold,” he smiled.
“No, not quite,” I replied, “but you’ve got the idea.”
I turned to go my way as did he. As I began to walk away, I glanced back, and he had vanished as quickly as he had appeared.
Like the rose, our opportunities to witness to those in need are like the rose’s beauty; fleeting and momentary. If we truly want to admire the grandeur of the Master’s hand, we must exalt His name on high and praise Him together in all that we do.
Yellow was her favorite, but a rose is a beauty to behold as the witness is to the lost soul, regardless of color.
Thanks be to God.