I distinctly remember talking with my high school English teacher one day (okay, complaining a little to be honest) about why all the books we read that year were either depressing or sad, and usually both. In response, he said that he assigned a happy book one year because of such complaints, and everyone ended up hating it. I will cycle back to this later in the post, but right now I’m jumping to a different topic (don’t worry; they do relate. Bear with me).
For those who didn’t know, here at Berry College almost all students have a paying job on campus that is assigned to us when we come in freshman year. For this year, I’m working in the horticulture department, which means I basically make sure all the decorative gardening looks good, and entails a lot of pruning. Since spring is coming fast (thank God), there are huge amounts of pruning to be done for the new growth that will occur in the spring. So this past week, I did a lot of rose bush pruning.
Now, I like roses. They happen to be my favorite flower (which may or may not have to do with my name). I think they’re lovely and beautiful, and also have fairy tale connections through Beauty and the Beast (my personal favorite) and Sleeping Beauty (I love fairy tales, especially the “happily-ever-after” part). However, as most of you who have ever worked with rosebushes will know, they also have numerous, sharp thorns all along the stems. So as I sat there pruning bushes and trying to avoid sticking myself (in which endeavor I was successful…most of the time), I pondered what it could mean that the rose, a beautiful flower that is often connected with romance, also has these painful thorns. I think deep thoughts like that sometimes. (Especially when working. I’ve found gardening to be very conducive to either thinking deep thoughts or not thinking much of anything at all.) I decided that roses actually represent life, in a way. The thorns are painful. They hurt, they prick, they draw blood and tears (though fortunately I never stuck myself that hard). When the roses aren’t blooming, the bushes are bare and brown, and if one wanders into a patch by mistake it becomes very understandable why briar roses and thorn bushes were chosen to guard the way to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. They are quite effective deterrents.
Yet once the rose blooms, the pain is forgotten. One forgets the thorns and embraces the beauty that came from it. Likewise, in life, there are often painful things that we have to go through (tests, car accidents, loss, stress, etc.), but in the end, we look back at life and see that it is beautiful, because God has designed each and every prick and pain in our lives so that the good work he is doing in us shines out all the more. After the pain, comes the beauty, and during the pain, he has promised to give us relief and peace and the perseverance to make it through. And after thinking about this, I think it not so strange after all that roses, with their thorns, are seen as romantic flowers. For Jesus wore a crown of thorns on the cross, and that was the greatest act of love to ever be displayed on the earth.
So, I firmly believe that life really is a bundle of roses. Yes, there are thorns, and they hurt, but in the end, when we can look back at our lives from a heavenly perspective (and maybe some people can even do this still on earth), I think most of what we’ll be able to see is the good that came from the thorns. And that is something beautiful, indeed. It’s the thorns in life that create stories, through people’s responses to the challenges that come their way. This is how my English teacher story relates. He told me everyone ended up disliking the book because there wasn’t any real depth to it. There wasn’t anything to talk about, it wasn’t really inspiring, and there was nothing to inspire the opinions and debates that English classes depend on. For stories to really stick with people, there needs to be challenges and suffering like there is in real life, so that makes for some sad and depressing books. Although of course some of the most enduring stories are those of people who ultimately overcame their challenges and found their “happily-ever-after” fairy tale ending. (Which is something I tried to achieve in Cassie’s story. You can decide whether or not I achieved that for yourselves.) I believe those sorts of stories are perhaps the most important, because they give the people who read them hope that no matter how bad things get, there is always hope for a better tomorrow. In fact, the Bible itself is that kind of story, because despite all the suffering, pain, and grief it says to expect in life, it also gives us the hope of eternity, which is the best ending of all. Especially because that is a true ending to look forward to, and not just a fairy tale.
So I left my pruning and went on with my day, and the most I can do is hope that when I hit a thorny patch in my life, I’ll remember my thoughts while I pruned the roses, and be comforted in the thought that God is always there. (And that when I have to go back to pruning the roses and inevitably prick myself, I’ll remember that they will look the better this spring for the pruning. Assuming I did my job right, anyways.)