By Victor Leslie, Lt. Colonel
I grew up in the Caribbean where the natural life and tropical flora of the region is a wonder to behold. On a given day, if you take a walk on one of the tiny islands, you would be amazed at the wide variety of flowers that are visible, growing in the underbrush or in any of the fine manicured gardens. Everywhere you find the freshness of nature—in the breathtaking perfumes, exquisite beauty and the dizzying intensity of colors in these tropical flowers. It is easy to let your imagination run wild as you stoop to examine the intricacy of indigenous orchids or inhale the scents of exotic flora with names such as lobster-claw, shame a lady, powder-puff and bird of paradise.
From my childhood days when I would step outside and freely pick flowers, to my daughters’ weddings when I paid an exorbitant sum for a few bouquets of flowers, and still recently as we celebrated Valentine’s Day, I must admit that I have had a fascination with flowers. In a sense, I have no choice as I am married to a “Rose” and in our family flowers have always been a woman’s best friend (diamonds are not even a distant second). They are everywhere in our home—gorgeous in form, stunning in color, exquisite in arrangement, infinite in variety: artificial flowers, dried flowers, acrylic flowers and, sometimes, fresh-cut flowers with names as strange as those in the Caribbean—forget-me-nots, baby’s breath, elderflowers, bleeding hearts and even the devil’s walking stick.
I am awestruck by the hues and message and meaning behind these everyday flowers. As a Christian, red roses remind me of the passion and love of the “Rose of Sharon” (Song of Solomon 2:1); white carnations symbolize a desire to live a holy life and walk in purity; lavender orchids highlight the grace of God that is so undeserving; purple lilies speak to me of royalty that comes from being a child of the King (1 Peter 2:9); and yellow daffodils—they are a picture of rebirth and new beginnings that come from the fire of God’s Holy Spirit, assuring us of our friendship with God (Romans 8:16).
I am also captivated by the reasons we give and receive flowers. In every culture and across all generations, we give each other flowers on nearly all occasions—birthdays, anniversaries, sickness, new babies, weddings, graduations, and for nearly any reason. Every day flowers highlight the human desire for love and affirmation, which truly can only be found in our relationship with God, but is emulated in our human relationships through flowers that can show that we do not merely say that we love each other…but show the truth by our actions (1 John 3:18).
We know that these multi-colored tokens of love will soon pass away, yet we keep buying and giving them, arranging, displaying, touching, smelling and watering them. And for the most sentimental among us, even when our flowers wilt and die, we press them together and keep them as a memorial between the pages of a book. Why? Flowers mark a memory in life, often joyful, sometimes painful, but always something lovely and fresh that lingers with us as a representation of life.
The Bible—in comparing our short life here on earth to a flower-—confirms that we blossom like a flower and wither; like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear (Job 14:2). This analogy provides scope and stimulus for our lives to blossom into a wonderful expression of beauty and blessing that predictably leaves the aroma of Christ as we interact daily with discouraged hearts and despairing minds. And when our “flower” falls away—unlike the flower of the field that the wind blows over it and it is gone and its place remembers it no more (Psalms 103:15-16), our lives would have marked a memory of Christ for others to hold onto, leaving behind a lingering fragrance of love that is remembered for generations to come.