A few hundred writers had gathered to pursue their calling on a smoky North Carolina mountaintop. Sunned by worship and swathed in the dewy atmosphere of prayer, an iris raised her amethyst head near the summit stairway.
She wore her crown of petals as a hard-won accomplishment. The iris began her journey to glory as a misshapen bulb, appearing dead and worthless to the untrained eye. Human hands proceeded to bury her in reeking filth. Like some of her sisters, she could have given up. The earth urges the broken to rot rather than persevere.
Perhaps the iris felt the call of our worship, the warmth of Sonlight, and the energy of our prayers. Glory summoned life to break forth from the buried, unseemly bulb. Pressing out of the miserable and impossible circumstances, a sprout pursued what it could not perceive. Faith compelled her to reach up toward an unimaginable outcome.
The iris spent her days dwelling in a thin place between heaven and earth. Her smile bloomed at me, a weary passerby who also pursued an unimaginable calling. This flower held her wind-whipped position with patience and grace, despite the short span of her existence.
Soon after I photographed her, the iris surrendered her life to enrich the soil for coming generations. A chilling wind lifted the last breath of her fragrance and conveyed it beyond the reach of mortal senses.
Long after her death, Esther’s story imparts a lesson of courage. The iris also taught me ways to rise as a royal heir in God’s Kingdom.
Don’t allow untrained eyes to define you as misshapen and useless. Your Creator sees your potential. The world might view the shape of your backstory, emotional struggles, or other circumstances as unseemly. If you believe those who can only see the surface, you will join them in the shame-lies. You might even adopt the names the enemy uses to trap you in the dirt. The Lord never refers to us by our worst moments. He offers us a name that transcends our past and present. God defines us by the potential Christ activates from our surrendered lives. Like Esther rose from orphanhood to become the queen who saved her people from genocide, we can submit our bulb-like lives to bloom as heirs of Christ.
When rottenness buries you, don’t waste it by staying there. Refuse, suffocation, and death envelop us. Dirt tangles around our roots. We can remain buried and become part of the rotten muck or choose to use it for our growth.
The suffering soul cannot see past the dank pain overwhelming her. She must pursue the sunlight in faith until her life sprouts above the surface. Her new growth requires continued nurture and perseverance, holding out hope for the promise of her dreams. The creator designed her to bloom in colors she has never seen in herself. She must focus on His whispers to guide her into the fullness of her potential.
Grow by faith. Don’t believe your surroundings more than you believe God. How can one hope in the midst of darkness? Believing in what cannot be seen defines the essence of overcoming. Faith, neither trite nor cheap, determines our survival.
Through roadblocks like packed soil and ongoing winds of attack, persevere. Stay the course. Hold your position on this steep path to the summit. Weary passersby depend on your ministry to reach their own potential. If you give up, others will rot in despair because you weren’t available on their path to sustain them on their journeys. The choice to live rather than die will involve challenge and suffering. Your path is a hard one for an important reason: because you matter to the kingdom of God.
Nourish your growth. Don’t attempt to fulfill your calling on your own energy. Contrary to the teachings of our humanistic earth, you don’t actually have any real power of your own. No one has what it takes to fulfill divine purpose without the Holy Spirit. You could overcome darkness and fulfill your potential as the King’s heir. Christ has his eye on you. And so does the enemy. Spiritual warfare will attempt to suffocate you in the dirt and attack your growth. No one can survive to wear an amethyst crown without proper water, light, and nutrients. Maintain daily connection with the one who sustains you through scripture study, prayer, and fellowship with healthy believers.
Here are a few additional tips for healthy spiritual growth:
1. Journal through the flower bed of your pain. Decide not to rest your head there forever. Process the past but refuse to let it sour your future with bitterness. Seek healing and do the hard work of forgiveness to set your soul free.
2. Adopt the name your Creator bestows upon you. Accept your Savior’s view of your flowering potential instead of limiting self-definition to your current, root-ball state. Identify yourself as who you’re becoming instead of who you are or who you’ve been before. Determine to learn your beauty as one destined to bloom and share a legacy of fragrant blessings.
3. Declare where you’re heading before you see the sunlight. Post inspirational notes to keep faith in the center of your perspective.
4. Listen for the songs, messages, and prayers overhead. Find wise counsel in mature groups, books, and individuals to encourage your growth upward. Avoid the pull of those who linger in resentment and rot.
Each persevering life inspires mine. And countless others. Let us encourage one another on this steep journey. As we persevere together, may your soul bloom in the ultimate gardener’s perfect care.