Why is life so hard? A lesson from a rock flower.

Marble Canyon is a magical place nestled deep in the Canadian Rockies. It was closed to visitors until recently because a 2003 wildfire ravaged the mountaintops and valleys around it for miles on every side, burning the bridges that enabled access. Bleached tree skeletons stand pointing toward heaven, scarred witnesses of inferno.  In contrast, a glacial stream meanders peacefully, the music of its happy chattering contrasting with the story of the trees.
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Without warning the river plummets straight down. A drop off forms dramatic falls between vertical white rock walls. Transformed into a torrent, the water dashes itself through narrow spaces and tumbles ever deeper, sometimes gradually, other times dropping straight down. Emerald mosses and chartreuse lichens, highlight the brilliant white rock. It continues to flow far beneath the surface through a narrow canyon, sheer cliffs face to face on each side.
image02Read this when your life is hard
I wander along the edge of the cliff, speechless that such beauty could exist in the middle of a cemetery of dead trees. My eyes fall on a yellow flower growing part way down one rock wall. It is tiny, just a single slender stem growing straight out from the rock wall, horizontal. Its roots anchor it in place, through a rare crack.
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Staring at it, I hear a gentle voice speaking to my soul. “See that flower? I allowed harsh winds to carry its infant seed to that inhospitable spot. If it could talk, it would tell you that it was not easy finding space to grow roots. It has to reach out at that unnatural angle in order to find sunlight.”
I wonder if the flower is envious of its brothers and sisters above who live and bloom in easier places.
Then my perspective changed. Storms can’t disturb the little yellow bloom, sheltered as it is in the rock. During times of drought, when its cousins thirst and die, it is watered by the spray from the river far below.  When fire destroyed everything growing in easy places, that little flower was unharmed. The very rock that made its life difficult, sheltered it from the flames. The flower’s deep roots held firm. The spray of the river continued to sustain it, even through fire.
I hear the whisper from the center of my soul once more. “You are like that flower, my child. Your life’s steep-cliff challenges force your roots deep.  You are what I made you to be, a flower longing for the light of my face. Dark shadows force you to grow in ways that seem unnatural. Only a few drops of water ever find a way through the rock to those roots of yours and so you drink in the fine spray that reaches you from below, and wonder why I don’t give you more to drink all at once. And you wonder why you must struggle when I could put you in places where you could easily flourish. But don’t forget, no avalanche will ever crush you, no fire will ever burn you. You are sheltered in the cleft of the rock, nurtured and protected, strengthened by the hardships. Be grateful little flower. You are right where I planted you.”
I know that I am supposed to thank God, in everything, even in persistent hardships. I war within though. In my deepest, truest place I want to love God with all my strength more than I want anything else, but most days I am more aware of other things, demanding longings that shout, drowning out the quieter, truer voice. We all long for peaceful intimate relationships. We long for health and relief from financial stresses.  Maturity is learning to trust that nothing comes to us without first passing through the hand of God. The mature learn to say, “I trust you, Lord. I will wait here for the good you are doing, even if I wait for a lifetime.” I believe that we Christians are growing toward maturity, a maturity that will free us to be deeply grateful for the hard rock walls that refuse to move. Maturity that rejoices in perceived scarcity that forces us to dig deep every day. One that relishes the short moments when we feel God’s presence shining warm and comforting, but does not panic during the hours when shadows hide his light. When storms rage and fire consumes all around we will be safe, sheltered by the very walls that we once resented.
“Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2 -4, ESV )
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