The Sign of the Rose
Spring 2009. I awoke one morning to a future that seemed frighteningly uncertain and months of prayers that seemed unanswered. Limbs achy with anxiety. I’m sure you know the feeling . . .
That morning, as I left for work, a bush at the base of our steps met me with an explosion of color; a dozen or more petite roses in full bloom. I had not known this was a rose bush. I had not noticed the buds forming. The bush had not bloomed the year before. I tearfully plucked one flower and pressed it in my wallet.
At least one rose kept constant vigil until the mid-January snowstorms finally pushed it into hibernation. This past April, on a day that seemed particularly bright, with an unexpected opportunity unfolding, the bush became enflamed once more.
Sign-seeking is dangerous business (sign-seekers in the scriptures don’t end particularly well . . . ). And aren’t signs usually created in retrospect? The rainbow on the blind date that led to marriage – a sign! The other rainbows on all those other afternoons are forgotten, with no outcomes to secure their place in our emotional narratives.
Sign is the wrong word for my roses. They were not pointing to an outcome, not even to a bend in the road. They provided no epiphany. Instead, they offered beauty, with such vivacity that I couldn’t look away. Each afternoon, well into the cold of winter, I stopped before entering the house, stooped and . . . well . . . smelled the roses.
Sign might be the wrong word, but these flowers did feel like a spiritual gift of serendipitous timing. I don’t think my prayers made the flowers grow. But perhaps those hours of petitions attuned me to look for manna in my wilderness. The flowers were a natural offering that I chose to make a symbol of hope. I chose to accept the gift.
Here’s another way of looking at it: It often seems that when I’m seeking, I find more moments of grace. Moments that might have occurred regardless, but moments I might have missed. Perhaps prayer opens me to gifts that are already there for the taking. The unexpected email from a friend, the perfect song on the radio, and the still lizard on my windowsill: moments of grace.
And it makes me want to be that moment of grace for someone else — to write the note, send the flower, or offer the smile that might keep another soul tethered to hope just a little bit longer, at least until this storm lets up.
Oh, and when we went house-hunting a few months ago, we walked into an empty kitchen and saw single rose in a blue vase. I like to think I would have chosen this house anyway . . . !
P.S. Do you believe in signs?