I go deep, but I do come up for air sometimes and frankly relish the times I can feel relaxed. Even more, I enjoy the times God surprises me. I’m not an serious bike rider; my riding consisted of going up to the grocery store, riding my son down to his preschool and then myself over to substitute teach at a local school, or just riding around the neighborhood for fun. I do enjoy riding, but a nice flat bike path is my preferred route. Recently, though, I’ve been challenged to “kick it up a notch’ and try real road biking, complete with loooooong hills.
Just getting adjusted to a much lighter bike, eleven gears I have no idea how to use, and a man’s frame was challenge enough for me, much less 3%-6% hills! I tried wearing bike shoes with cleats until the painful day early in my trial period when the sole pulled off my shoe as I tried to extract my foot from the pedal to stop. The hole in my tights slightly limited the hole in my knee….
Recently I tackled another ride with my good friend and the bicycle club he rides with. Ever the encourager, he has actually pushed me up a few hills with his hand on my back when I felt my heart rate hitting “let’s just pull over and breathe.” He knows I can do it! But on Wednesday my body decided to speak into his optimism, and after the first loooooong hill I called over to him, “I’m taking a right here, I know how to get back to the starting point!” Before he could object – er, encourage me – strenuously, I took a right and rejoiced at the much flatter road stretching ahead.
After a quarter of a mile or so my heart rate fell back into the “No, you’re not having a heart attack” range, and even though the pavement was rough and I did feel a pang of “Quitter!” rising up in me, I was glad for the chance to breathe normally. But oh, in one mile I knew why I chose that point to bail out of the hill conquering.
It’s been a looooooong time, over five years, since anyone gave me flowers. God gave me tremendous loyalty and the spirit to pray without ceasing for His victory in a tragedy, but sometimes God’s answer is “Not in the way you hoped for.” In all honesty, coming to terms with that answer has weighed on my heart on some of my rides, and carrying the weight of sorrow as well as my own body uphill on a bicycle is a load heavier than I can bear some days. I need to be honest with you all: yes, some days my faith, like King David’s in so many Psalms, cries out to God not understanding His why. I think that was part of my bailing out on this ride.
Imagine the sweet joy, then, of the wildflowers I saw lining the road for half a mile: yellow brittlebush, burgundy Perry penstemon, blue columbine, deep pink Baja fairy duster, orang globe mallow…. I stopped pedaling, propped my bicycle against the rock wall, and stooped to smell the flowers.
My Father makes flowers! All the florists in the world can’t spread out a carpet like God does. Sometimes I’ve marveled at the odd truth that we humans have a sense of beauty. We may not all agree on what makes personal beauty, or even beauty in art, but every person launched into life appreciates the splendor of stars and loveliness of flowers. And why, I wondered, did God bother to make them so lovely? So different? Some so fragrant? Yes, I know they attract bees and moths and other pollinators, but why so colorful?
Did He create them with more than pollination in mind? Why do we women view a gift of a bouquet, or even one single rose, as a gesture of love if God didn’t put HIS love for us into their beauty?
‘I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys,” Song of Solomon 2:1
See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:28-33 NIV
He was calling to me to come down that road, to rest in my Creator and Father’s beauty, to receive a reminder and rest in His love through Jesus, to know most of all I am His, He is mine, and His banner over me is love:
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:11-13 NIV
My FATHER, your FATHER, extends the single stem of the Blood-red Rose of Sharon in love to you today.