November 21, 2007

A Different Kind of Deathbed Conversion

2007 1533 page29 capt was spring at Atlantic Union College. After a cold and gray Massachusetts winter of typically long duration, the campus embraced the advent of spring as only warmth and color-starved people can. Folks ventured out just to feel the sun’s warmth on their upturned faces. They took the shovels off their porches. They pored over garden catalogs. They tasted spring in the very air. They breathed in hope.
As did nature itself. Snow-drops, crocus, and tulips bravely fought their way out of frozen ground. Spring was finally here in force, and forced-indoors bulbs gladly gave way to the real thing just outdoors. Lawns greened, trees budded, plants bloomed, and all across the campus so did young love.
The faithful grounds crew arduously prepared, planted, and tenderly cultivated campus flower beds, and by exam week, right on schedule, glorious crimson tulips stood on tiptoe as together they followed the arc of the sun. Once again, a perfect graduation weekend had been carefully orchestrated. Tests loomed, but the campus was ready.
Then it snowed, a brief but brutal spring snowstorm. As if it weren’t enough that we had to face the exams themselves, we had to trudge through biting winds and furious flurries just to get to them! It nipped spring fever in the bud.
2007 1533 page29It nipped the spring buds, too. Those lovely spring flowers dropped dead in their tracks. Many didn’t make it, and lay frostbitten, limp, and gray as the leaden skies. The same dedicated grounds crew now hitched up their suspenders and their resolve, and yanked out every dead thing they’d so carefully tended, replanting with truckloads of prebloomed tulips. It wouldn’t do for our visitors to be greeted by the specter of death, or for those deathbeds to form the backdrop for thousands of photographic graduation memories.
The new weather held, so did the newly transplanted tulips, and weekend visitors had no clue of the death-to-life drama that had unfolded just before their arrival.
You know, you can do everything right in your efforts to raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You can see that precious seeds are sown early in life. You can cultivate, tend, weed (oh, how we need to weed!), fertilize, and in every way humanly possible, encourage your young crops’ growth.
There comes a time, however, when they need to be standing on their very own tiptoes. Tests and storms will come that are out of your control. Some plants will sustain damage, and some of that damage will be heavy. Warm, young hearts will turn old and cold. You’ll be tempted to feel that all you’ve done has been in vain, to fear that nothing can take root in those dry hearts again.
But you’d be forgetting the Master Gardener! He created man out of the very dust of the first garden and breathed into him the breath of life. Is it any harder for Him to re-create your precious child? He’s got a crew of caretakers in every church, school, and community who are dedicated to giving your child a new start, who are daily hitching up their resolve to keep on loving them, come what may. They’ve seen the coldest hearts thaw, hopeless spirits revived, tearful families reunited.
God can make a way for your wayward child, too, so don’t give up. He never will.
Valerie N. Phillips is the associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan (U.S.A.), where she has ministered to collegiate women for more than 25 years.