From the LYWB.com team: Hey girls, meet Sharon! She’s interning here with us at Revive Our Hearts. God has put some cool things on her heart that we wanted to pass along to you.
Every fall, when I was still a skinny, barefoot girl, I would watch my mother hunch over a row of soft dirt, a small shovel in hand—digging holes in the dirt my brother had tilled the day before. After a hole was built, she would gently take a daffodil bulb from the Walmart sack beside her and place it into the tiny little grave. Up and down our half-mile driveway, she would dig these little graves, burying the bulbs inside.
I can still see the dirt under her fingernails, smeared below her nostrils. Her face was flushed pink in the hot September sun, and strands of gray hair would float wildly around her ears. I thought she looked beautiful. But my mother is never one to let her children watch in idle amusement, and soon I was kneeling beside her, smearing dirt under my own filthy nostrils.
The older I got, the more I dreaded this fall chore of burying dead flowers. I wanted to play basketball, travel, read, do anything but kneel along a gravel driveway and store dirt under my nails that would inevitably last at least a week. Planting wasn’t exactly the ideal way for this teenager to spend her day, but my mom was insistent. So I kept digging.
As much as I hated planting, I did love the springtime when those little graves would resurrect their dead occupants and the most beautiful yellow flowers would burst forth—almost overnight. One night I’d fall asleep in a world of grays and greens, and when morning came, yellow flowers would bloom, creating the perfect little sunshine to our dull gravel driveway. Waving in the breeze, they’d welcome guests and bid visitors goodbye throughout all the spring season.
I’d call it magical, but we both know magic can’t bring life from death. No. The right word to describe it would have to be miraculous, for you never knew if the graves will bloom, if the plants will survive the winter, or if varmints will destroy the bulbs. You just have to have faith that the unseen bulbs will grow. For once you’ve buried a bulb, all you can do is patiently wait for spring and let God perform a miracle.
A Different Kind of Grave
A year ago today, God brought me to a different kind of hole—a deeper, darker hole than those of the daffodils. He brought me to the grave of my older brother, Ben. How long and yet how short a time it seems. I still remember sobbing in the darkness as I learned of his tragic suicide. I recall wandering around my house aimlessly, not sure where to go or what to do, and not wanting to be sure. It was as though a fog settled in upon my mind, and I didn’t mind being lost in its mist.
As a child, I had planted daffodils trusting that once winter had passed they would yield forth beauty from their graves. But as an adult, I couldn’t see how the grave of my brother would bring forth anything worth being titled beautiful. A year later, I’m amazed to write that I’ve now felt the winter thaw, rested in the spring, and seen the flowers of my own brother’s death blossom overnight.
The Blossom of Faith
The first flower to blossom was faith—faith that God was good, that His Word was still true, that His treasures were worth seeking. In our current society, sin is so accepted that it seems to suffocate my heart from breathing in the fresh air of God’s truth. Everywhere I look, I see sinful things, and soon I stop trying to look for righteousness because it seems there is no place to turn.
Holiness, it seems, is dead. I soon accept sin because I grow faint of heart in the war of this world, and I am tired of fighting alone. By accepting it, I doom myself to a gray haze of faithlessness that clouds my eyes from seeing clearly.
I’ve walked around—and still walk around—pretending to have a grasp on righteousness, but so much sin clogs my mind and heart that I think I not only have no righteousness, I don’t even know what it means to have it. I can’t even see an accurate picture of myself before Christ because I’m so focused on sinful things.
After my brother’s death, I gained a clarity I had never known before. Sin took my brother to the grave, and so sin became my enemy. I hated it. I wanted to kill it, to destroy its every presence. When I learned to hate sin, I began to see clearly once again.
For the first time in a long time, I saw myself for who I was, and I caught a glimpse of Christ for who He was. That glimpse brought about a blossom of faith in my heart. When faith blossoms in your heart, its fragrance is so strong you can’t help but pick up your sword and rejoin the battle. My little flower of faith has wavered in this past year, but at last it finally bloomed.
The Blossom of Love
The second blossom to bloom was my love for family. In our current world, family is practically dead. What was once the strongest unit on the planet to nurture, strengthen, empower, teach, love, and create men and women of God is now a crumbling castle and a broken sword. Divorce, immorality, anger, foolishness, and many other forms of sin have almost completely conquered the safe haven family once held for people.
Now children grow up unable to stand on their own two feet because the family hasn’t empowered them to do so. We have a country of lonely, lost, scattered, foolish children who need a family to run to. Men are still boys, women still girls, because when they should have been taught, loved, held accountable, and nurtured by their fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, they were either running from them and or had no one to run to.
My brother’s death showed me how much I needed my family and how much they need me. Anyone who knows my siblings and me is aware of the strong bond of love that ties us together. It is a bond that started with my father, for as he strengthened that bond of love between himself and my mother, he strengthened it for his children as well. My family has faults and failures, like any family, but there is great strength and love provided in my life just because I do have a family. We are a family that cares about God and each other. After God, my family is the most influential presence in my life, and with my brother’s death, that presence has only grown stronger.
The Blossom of Action
The final flower to spring forth has been action. There’s a line in the movie Night of the Museum 2 that goes, “We’re Americans! We don’t plan. We do!” I laugh at the silliness of that line, but at the same time, I take pride in the fact that my forefathers didn’t just talk; they didn’t just plan; they did. Of course we need to plan, but if we never step beyond the plan, if we never act, then why plan?
I have always planned to have good friends, but when the time came for me to choose loneliness over friendship, no matter how destructive that friendship might be to me, I chose friendship. I have always planned to put good things into my mind, but a short scan of my movie records shows that I usually choose entertainment over being left out. I plan to have a good marriage someday, a fun job, a strong life, a true faith, but so often I fail in what I am doing right now to prepare myself for those things. I plan to take the high road, but when I look around, I see myself on lower ground. And all because I failed to act. Through Ben’s death, I’ve tried to change that. I’m an American. And more than that, I’m a Christian. I should plan. And I should do.
There’s a beautiful phrase in Isaiah where Christ promises to bring treasures from our darkness. The death of my brother has truly been an overwhelming darkness, but in many ways, so much good has blossomed from his grave. And though the dirt of grief still clings under my nails, I am so blessed to be resting in the beauty, in the colors, in the fragrance that comes when death brings life.
In remembrance of my dear brother Ben. May my life bring blossoms to his death.