I pull into the driveway, and I’m undone yet again at seeing my stunning camellia bush. This simple shrub that has weathered many storms, has taught me to hope, even when all seems lost.
Almost 16 years ago, I put in a little garden outside my window. Everything in it was dedicated to our infant son Paul who had died. The camellia bush, a butterfly bush, and countless flowers all graced the yard in honor of our precious son. When we moved, we got permission to take the camellia, which blooms around the time of Paul’s death. We planted it in the perfect place, directly in front of our new home.
Spring came and the bush looked leafy and green, but the full sun of summer scorched it. By September, the leaves had all fallen and the shrub was a tangled mass of dry grey twigs. But it was so connected with Paul that getting rid of it was unthinkable. And so it sat there for months, dry and brittle. Lifeless.
Our landscaper knew nothing of our plant’s history. To him it was just a dead bush. One day when I was gone, he cut it down to the stump and hauled the branches away. When I inquired about it, he responded, "I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first. But it was dead you know.”
I know, I know, I know. It was dead and there was no point in keeping it.
After that, I couldn't bear to look at that empty spot in front of the house. It seemed irrational, but the ache was all too real. I didn’t know why, but I felt that I had let Paul down. Why was this so important? Why did I cry every time I thought about it?
One spring day, I glanced at the space by the front door. I was stunned. Glossy, green leaves were covering the stump. Though the branches were destroyed, the roots had remained. The roots needed the ruthless pruning and the dormancy of winter to begin the work of regeneration. All winter long, when I could only see my loss, God was working for my good.
Within a few weeks, a small bush had formed again. What I thought was dead, was now alive. Ann Voskamp tells of a rosebush she saw spring to life and noted, “what is dead may be dormant and what is barren may be about to bear and wild things somehow find a way to bloom.”
In late spring, we moved it to another part of the garden that doesn't get direct heat. In the fall, the bush was once again covered with a breath-taking profusion of delicate white flowers. I wept when I saw them. They represented hope to me. Nothing is beyond redemption- God makes pathways in the wilderness and creates rivers in the dry wasteland.
I learned so much from that simple camellia bush:
God is always working -- especially when we can't see it. Deep roots help us weather storms and drought. Pruning is painful but necessary for a fruitful life. When all seems lost, redemption may be closer than we think.
Never give up hope, because miracles happen every day.