Learning from Rhododendrons

When the calendar page rolls over to March and the weather turns noticeably warmer, my thoughts drift toward yardwork. Trust me when I say that I don’t eagerly embrace that drift. The way I see it, I’m an apartment or condo guy who just happens to live in a big brick house with a sizable yard. Unfortunately for me, that yard must be maintained and I don’t have a professional gardener on staff. No, my gardener looks back at me when I shave.

I really don’t mind dragging out the lawnmower and mowing the grass. It’s a little more work to fire up the weed-eater and do the detail trimming, but even that isn’t unbearable. What I truly loathe, though, is dealing with my rhododendrons. Oh, sure, I know how beautiful they are when they are in full bloom. The problem is that I also know how finicky they are. On the one hand, if they don’t get enough water, they turn dry and brittle. On the other hand, if they get too much water, they develop spots on the leaves.

The problem of proper hydration is minor, however, compared to the damage that gets done when a dog or some other animal gets into a rhododendron and breaks some of that plant’s branches. Those broken branches have to be cut out, and that leaves a big hole in the overall look of the plant. (Ask me how I know that). You get the same problem when a little boy, in the heat of a front-yard football game, crashes into a plant. (Ask me how I know that, too).

I guess we can 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 its former beauty, at least not in this life.

It’s similar to what happened to David back in the days of the Old Testament. Even as he lived his life for God, right in the middle of it he had his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and subsequently orchestrated the murder of her husband, Uriah. To David’s credit, he did eventually confess his sins and repent of them. That didn’t mean, though, that he got out from under their earthly stigma. The Bible bears this out in 1 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. (N.K.J.V., emphasis mine)  

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 that in my life. I just want you to realize that sin damages your life in a very real way. Some of that damage can be minor, but some of it can be catastrophic.

The good news is that forgiveness of all sin is available in Jesus. The bad news is that 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 surely come up.

That’s why it’s so much better not to sow the seeds in the first place. Instead, keep your life looking like a perfectly shaped, beautiful rhododendron. You do that by staying in God’s will and resisting the temptation to 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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