If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“Didn’t it seem like, when we were kids, lilacs lasted all summer long?” my sister once asked me.
I had to agree. Evidently, as a child, I was oblivious to things like the passing of time and the life cycles of flowering plants. When I think about my childhood home, I remember winter ending, sunshine returning, and lilacs blooming in my mother’s yard. Summer loomed long before me, and childhood was pleasant.
One early June, the summer before my husband and I were married, I planned to cut a bouquet of lilacs for my apartment before he came for a visit. Each time I walked past the bank of bushes which lined the parking lot at the rear of my building, I drank deeply of their fragrance and color. When I went out scissors in hand to clip a few blossoms to bring indoors, I was stunned to find most of the flowers had turned brown and their lovely aroma had faded. Until that day, I had not realized how short was the season for enjoying lilacs.
Since writing my post about the color yellow, I’ve been thinking about what else I might add to my soul care toolkit. I definitely need to pack some lilacs in there.
“Consider the lilies,” Christ told his followers when they were tempted to doubt the Father’s goodness or question His provision for them. He pointed them to the stuff of this creation which was spoken into existence by the word of God and bears witness to the same.
Each spring I don’t just wait for lilacs to bloom, I will for them to return. As soon as I seen signs of life in flowering trees and plants, I begin examining my lilac bushes. I squint my eyes in search of the slightest hint of lavender, the tiniest cluster of a flower bud beginning to form. I know the lilacs’ signature scent won’t return until the flowers begin to open, so I search out the first floweret which unfurls and drink its aroma deep into my lungs.
I don’t just enjoy lilacs; I bury my face in and inhale them.
Because I know these flowers will be with me for such a short time, perhaps two weeks at best. I don’t take them for granted. They are a gift to me each spring, a lovely and gracious one from the hand of my Father. They tell me something of His delight in giving me good things. And they remind me of something important about Him.
God cares about things like beauty and fragrance.
Within the myriad of detailed instruction God gave his people about building His tabernacle, He told them to build an altar of incense. And the fragrant smoke which ascended from the altar, reaching toward heaven and representing the prayers of God’s people, pleased Him.
And when I am tempted to doubt my Father’s goodness or question His provision for me the scent of lilac wafting through a spring breeze feels a little like a love letter from Him. He reminds me that the cry of my heart, whether in joy or in pain, arises like a sweet-smelling aroma to Him. When I take time to sit beneath my lilac bushes and allow myself to be enveloped by their fragrance, I am reminded that God cares about the cries of my heart. And He delights to give good gifts to his children.
I have told my children that, when I die, I intend to do it in May. Not necessarily this May, mind you, should the Lord tarry and continue to give me strength. “Fill my casket with lilacs,” I’ve told them, “so I’ll be able to drink in their fragrance forever.”
Already the lilacs in my neighborhood have begun to fade and turn brown, and this grieves me. I know I will wait almost another full year before they return and make my heart glad. I long for a world where lilacs bloom eternally, just as they did in childhood memory.
I have already commissioned my rock-star diva girlfriend to sing at my funeral which, I tell her as a cancer survivor, is how I know she is going to outlive me. And don’t even try to pick apart my logic here; just go with it.
The song I have asked her to sing is There is a Land of Pure Delight, an old hymn written by Isaac Watts and recorded by Red Mountain Church. The lyrics, in part, are these:
There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign,
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.
There everlasting spring abides,
And never withering flowers:
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heav’nly land from ours.
Granted, Isaac Watts’ words don’t carry the weight and authority of scripture. Perhaps lilacs won’t bloom eternally in heaven. But maybe they will. And, if so, each time I bury my face in a bunch of them, and inhale them deep into my lungs, I am feeding my soul a foretaste of heaven.
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