One morning a few years ago I woke up, thinking about the income tax forms I had to fill in. My day didn’t look promising but despite that my heart was singing ‘Where can I find some peace?’ (an amazing worship song by Phil Varley *) God reminded me of something then and this morning he reminded me again and so here goes.
Twenty-two years ago, I bought a cactus at my grandson’s first school fare, I don’t know why I bought it, there was nothing about it that really attracted me, I’m not a cactus fan, but you have to buy something and my friend had donated the cactus. It was 2 inches high. It wasn’t very interesting, green, spiky describes it. I had no great expectations of it and consigned it to a corner in the conservatory, watered it spasmodically, re-potted it, it didn’t die, it just grew and grew. As it got older it got fatter, knobblier and slouched, in many ways it reminds me of me because along with how it looks, (fat, knobbly and slouching) it is very prickly, (I’m from Yorkshire) so you have to handle with care.
About twelve years ago my recumbent cactus did something different, it grew a weird, furry, grotesque, wart. It did not enhance its appearance, I wondered if it was sick?
The protuberance, continued to grow. It made me feel squeamish, it strongly reminded me of the 1950s novel by John Wyndham ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and ‘The Invasion of the Body Snatchers!’ Jack Finney’s novel, also from the 50’s. You could almost hear it grow, I watched it with some trepidation, and after two weeks, the wart, was 7 inches long, hairy and bulbous at its tip, almost primordial!
It was hypnotic and I kept stopping work to check its progress. One morning, to my astonishment, before my eyes, it burst open and unfurled the most fabulous heavenly trumpet like bloom. Its petals were like angel’s wings, rainbow tinged, translucent and ethereal. I just stood amazed gazing at it for hours it was so unexpected and touchingly beautiful. My ugly duckling had become a swan.
Alas within 24 hours the splendour was gone, limp, withered and discoloured, you cannot measure my disappointment, I felt bereft. Every year since then this uninteresting, fat, knobbly, slouching cactus has put on this 24 hour display becoming more and more spectacular with multiple blooms.
I have got to say that each year I have hoped the splendour would last, it’s a forlorn hope I know, and I have wondered why God would create something so beautiful that is so ephemeral. “You’re the one all creation sings for.” This is a line in Phil’s worship song. You know if the cactus was growing a million miles away in a desert and no one ever saw the flowers it would still be amazing and also have fulfilled its purpose of bringing Glory to its Creator.
The parallels between the cactus and ourselves are obvious, sometimes we have low expectations of ourselves and others, we can look at our small endeavours and think they have no purpose but in God’s hands our small, random acts of kindness, can always serve his purpose. Like the cactus whose spectacular flowers last for such a brief time our creator sees our pinpoints of light in a dark world and it is amazing what a man can do when God takes hold of him.
PS Both books have been turned in to creepily scary films and in the case of the Triffids a TV series. The Wyndham book is a good read and the films of both are well worth
watching unless you are squeamish, it just might cause you to put your house plants out at night the 1978 remake of the Body Snatcher particularly so.
* Where can I find some peace? Phil Varley ©2009 King’s Church Catford London UK
PPS I was hoping to have my latest novel (really my first novel) ‘Of a finer Ruth’ published before Christmas but regretfully I just haven’t been able to finish the final edit. We live a busy life. But as a Christmas present to all my friends I am putting my two other publications, Reflections of the Old Past and Red Sky at Dawning: the Time Oak, as free books for a week at Christmas.