Learning From Rhododendrons

When the calendar page rolls over to March and the weather turns noticeably warmer, my thoughts drift toward yardwork. It’s not a drift that I eagerly embrace. The way I see it I’m an apartment or condo guy who happens to live in a big brick house with a sizable yard. That yard must be maintained, and I don’t have a professional gardener on staff. My gardener looks back at me when I shave.

I don’t really mind dragging out the lawnmower and mowing the grass. It’s a little more work to fire up the weedeater and do the detail trimming, but even that’s not unbearable. What I truly loathe is dealing with my rhododendrons. Oh, I know how beautiful they are when they are in bloom, but I also know how finicky they are. If they don’t get enough water, they turn dry and brittle. If they get too much water, they develop spots on the leaves. All of this is minor, though, compared to the damage that is done when a dog or some other animal gets into a plant and breaks some branches. Those branches have to be cut out, and that leaves a big hole. (Ask me how I know that). You get the same problem when a little boy, in the heat of a frontyard football game, crashes into one. (Ask me how I know that).

I guess we might say that rhododendrons are like Christians. When they are ideally full, healthy, and in perfect bloom, nothing is more pleasing to the eye. They brighten up their surroundings and make the world a better place to be. But when sins such as drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual immorality, and other forms of “hard living” get into a Christian’s branches and break some of them off, it leaves a noticeable hole. No matter how nice the other parts of the life may look, our attention will always be drawn to the hole. And no matter how much that Christian does in service to the Lord, that hole will never fill back in to it’s former beauty, at least not in this life.

It’s similar to what happened to David back in the days of the Old Testament. We can all agree that He lived his life for God. But right in the middle of it there was his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah. David eventually confessed his sin and repented of it, but he never got out from under its earthly stigma. The Bible bears this out in First Kings 15:5 by saying: “David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”  

Please understand that I’m not trying to be mean or unforgiving. I know full well that God can take a life’s broken eggs and make great omelets. He’s done it in my life. I just want you to realize that sin damages your life in a very real way. Some of the damage can be minor, but some of it can be catastrophic. Certainly forgiveness of all sin is available in Jesus. But even Jesus won’t bring crop failure to bad seeds you have sown. He’ll help you face up to those tough harvests, and He’ll even bring much good out of them. But the harvests will come up. That’s why it’s so much better to not sow the seeds. Keep your life looking like a perfectly shaped, beautiful rhododendron. Stay in God’s will. Don’t run off to some Bathsheba that looks good to you. Remember, you’ll never be able to bloom to your fullest extent if you’ve got a sin-shaped hole somewhere in your plant.

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