Every year our church uses poinsettias as Christmas décor, so this year when we transformed our Urban Heights sanctuary into what we called “Back to Bethlehem,” we enjoyed our bright red poinsettias as part of the scenery. But now it’s February, and while the red blooms jubilantly proclaim life, the poinsettia leaves have wilted and fallen.
Is my wanting these plants to live only sentiment, since they were given in memory of loved ones? A part of me wants them to thrive, while another part says “Yes, they were beautiful, but they’ve run their course.” But I’ll admit, I’m a “prisoner of hope,” mesmerized by their blooms.
We prisoners of hope are like someone in a dead-end job, who believes better times are coming, or a person in a loveless relationship who hopes things will rekindle. We are like the lonely soul who waits for children and laughter to fill an empty house, because after all, what do we do when the leaves are wilted, but the blooms remain?
One spring I found a stringy poinsettia I’d consigned to my basement, now even void of blooms, but I brought it to a shady outdoor spot. Months later I came upon it and discovered the healthiest poinsettia imaginable. I had done nothing but change its environment, and what emerged was more beautiful than ever. Similarly, I have found there are circumstances I cannot change and problems I cannot fix, but by changing the environment, hope still lives.
In my life — and I think this is true for us all — attentiveness to God and the support of spiritual friends is an environment in which the best things happen. Daily time in the shade of God’s presence, despite unchangeable circumstances and unsolvable problems, is time spent with one who listens and cares. It is said of Jesus, “A dimly burning wick he will not quench,” and I have been that wick more than once. My spiritual friends are the warm, gentle rain coaxing me back to life.
So, we have circumstances we cannot change and problems we cannot fix, but attentiveness to God and the support of spiritual friends is the environment in which the best things happen. If we go there often enough, and stay there long enough, we will be surprised to discover that a shriveled “poinsettia” can thrive again.
Urban Heights Covenant Church
7605 Aurora Ave.