Buttercups in frozen earth and miracles of winter

A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump;
    a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree (Proverbs 11:28 MSG)

I admired the hardiness of this little plant.

My daughters and I had embarked on a treasure-hunting walk through our town.  We collected some of the final beauties of the fall, the red leaves beginning to fade, the acorns no longer piled high across the sidewalk, but scattered piecemeal along the path.

One daughter marveled at still-intact pine cones.  Another gathered large round seeds that we carried home for further investigation and all the girls measured themselves against the shoots of this grass.061

For me, though, the marvel of the day was the simplest of all plants, a tiny yellow buttercup.

Sure, we’ve seen a million of them this year.  My youngest picks dandelions and buttercups every single time we go outside from April to October.  They are presents for Mommy, of course.

This one tiny bud, though, was the only bloom we saw along our walk that brisk day.  The gardeners had long since covered over most of their plants and mulched their flower beds for the winter.

Apparently, no one had told this buttercup that blooming season had ended, that the ground was hard and beginning to freeze over.

My daughters wanted to pick it, but for once I declined.  How could we pick so bold and determined a little plant?  Better to let it live and reap the reward of all its effort and labor to reach to the sun.

In the devotional, Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman writes of another determined little flower:

High in the snow-covered Alpine valleys, God works one of His miracles year after year.  In spite of the extremes of sunny days and frozen nights, a flower blooms unblemished through the crust of ice near the edge of the snow (442).

She’s writing of the soldanelle plant, which stores the energy and heat from the summer sun deep in its roots so that it can bloom even in the winter snow.

A plain old buttercup becomes a wonder, blooming as it did out of season.  Even more amazingly, the soldanelle cutting through the ice and snow reminds us of the miracle of seemingly impossible growth.

We all experience winter.  It’s just fact of life. We won’t always be spring-time fresh in our faith, bounding through life with exuberant newness and joy.053

We won’t be perpetually blooming in the summer sun, receiving grace and abundant energy as God shines down on us and we work the soil.

We won’t even be harvesting those fields forever, raking in the reward of all that time toiling in the summer sun.  One day, we’ll pick that last bit of grain from this particular harvest.

And then what?

What happens when life seems dormant and maybe even dead?

The prophet Jeremiah wrote:

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit
(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Whether it’s the full-on summer heat of life leaving us parched and dying of thirst or it’s the burning frost of winter confining life to the deep underground, growth isn’t always easy or obvious.

The prophet reminds us, though, that when we place our full-out confident hope and trust in God, we’ll be reaching our roots of faith deep, deep down into God.  It’s sinking our roots far beneath the surface of superficial belief.

Often, it’s the very drought we think will kill us or the winter that appears to cause death that actually makes us fully live, makes us more resilient, makes us more beautiful in seasons to come.

Richard Foster describes it this way:

Winter preserves and strengthens a tree.  Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth.  In winter a tougher, more resilient life is firmly established.  Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish (Prayer, p. 65).

This explains the miracle the prophet Jeremiah describes: the greenness of a tree regardless of drought and the fruitfulness of a plant in every season.  It’s the difficult seasons where we feel no life at all that God is giving us the tools we need for abundant life.

If, that is, we sink our roots deeper and deeper into him, with all the determination of a November buttercup or an Alpine soldanelle pushing through ice and snow.  We reach deeper to the Living Water of Christ and dig tenaciously into God’s Word.

And we live.  Not only that, we flourish and bloom again.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

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