The Bouquet

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“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, 35).

Although familiar with Jesus’ command, I balked when it applied to a sister in Christ.

Elaine and I attended the same church, but we had little in common besides our faith in Christ. This middle-aged woman had lived her entire life in our small town located near the southern Oregon coast. I was a newcomer to the community. Elaine’s world consisted of her husband, adult children, close-knit extended family, and church activities. I was a stay-at-home mom with three children, five years of age and younger.

There was another reason we had no relationship. Elaine had definite (and negative) ideas about our former pastor. Others in the congregation sided with her. My husband and I, along with others in the church, had supported his work.

Now we had a new pastor. Perhaps harmony and friendship between Elaine and me might have bloomed later, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Weeks earlier, Elaine had been diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer. Our church, along with her large family, prayed for her. My husband and I prayed, too, yet Elaine’s medical condition worsened. Before long, the family requested no visitors.

I knew the Lord wanted me to reach out to Elaine, but I still held unforgiveness toward her. So with quiet stubbornness, I resisted His gentle urging. Then one Saturday morning in September the Holy Spirit placed a thought in my mind: Give your flowers to Elaine.

The test

“Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward” (Mark 9:41).

All summer I watched my flowers grow near our kitchen window. It consisted of two giant marigold plants, one dahlia bush, and a single gladiola spike. I had watered, weeded, and hovered over those flowers like a mother tending to her toddler’s needs. I looked forward to when they would make a colorful autumn bouquet for my dining room table.

In September, Elaine’s family informed the congregation that she would soon pass. It was then, on that Saturday morning, the Holy Spirit revealed how I could minister to her.

At first, I balked at parting with my precious flowers, now in full bloom. But the Lord’s test wasn’t about giving away some flowers; it was about my being faithful to Him, regardless of the outcome. The choice was mine.

I chose to ask forgiveness from Him for my stubborn heart. I chose to forgive Elaine and minister to her by gifting her my prized flowers.

But my heartfelt decision posed a new problem. How would I get them to her? I didn’t know where she lived. What if I did find the family home, knocked on the door, and they refused to answer? My fussing proved unnecessary.

Faithful obedience

“I was sick and you looked after me” (Matthew 25:36).

A young couple from our church stopped by later that Saturday. I told Susan what I needed to do, and she agreed to go with me.

Scissors in hand, I harvested stems of yellow marigolds with giant blooms, fully opened yellow and red striped dahlias, and the salmon pink gladiola stalk. After I arranged and wrapped them in a large paper funnel,
Susan drove me to Elaine’s home.

We knocked on the front door, and one of her brothers answered. His face revealed a deep sadness.

“I would like Elaine to have these flowers,” I told him. I opened my arms and gave him the bouquet. “Tell her they are from Virginia.” He thanked me, said a few kind words, and then closed the door.

As I turned and walked back to the car, an incredible sense of joy burst throughout my being. The Lord had forgiven me and gifted me with peace earlier that day, but now? Now He filled me with His joy — a gracious and unexpected gift — as a result of my faithfulness and obedience to Him.

Those flowers weren’t mine. I had the pleasure of raising them and of admiring their growing beauty. But the Lord intended they be my gift of love, my gift of apology and of forgiveness to Elaine. Later, her mother shared with me that after we left, the family raised Elaine’s head and shoulders from the pillow so she could see the bouquet, and told her it was from Virginia.

“What a beautiful bouquet of flowers,” Elaine managed to say.

Did the vibrant bouquet remind Elaine that one day she would see Jesus face to face? Did my gift assure her of my genuine apology and my offering of forgiveness? I like to think it did. Elaine died peacefully in the hope of the resurrection.

Virginia A. Johnson
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Virginia A. Johnson has published 200 articles in newspapers, periodicals, and tabloids and has self-published a book, A Greenhorn Gal: Life in Eastern Montana. She and her husband live in Sublimity, OR.