I thought I would share with you a very moving story written by Ken Davis. The story is entitled “A Dozen Wilted Roses,” and can be found in his book entitled “Lighten Up.” I trust you will enjoy the simplicity of this very touching story.
I was just collapsing into my easy chair after a long day of work. The chair welcomed me into its arms. I could feel the day’s tension drain from my body. That’s when Diane made her announcement: “I have tickets for the high school play.” As far as I was concerned, she could have been waving a coupon for a discount root canal. Spend my evening seeing amateurs stumble through some Broadway musical? Not likely. “I’m not going anywhere,” I growled. Diane persisted. “Jean has a part in the play – we have to go!” Jean was a vivacious teenager who attended our Campus Life club meetings. She was there for the games and discussion, definitely not what she called “religious emphasis.” Yet, Jean was curious about the person of Jesus, and she occasionally asked some probing questions. Still, she saw me as some kind of religious fanatic.
Diane pleaded as if Jean wouldn’t make it through the night without our attendance at the play. I could see I was going to have to put my foot down. “I’m exhausted and we’re not going!” I rumbled with intimidating finality. “Jean has only two lines. She wouldn’t even know we were there.” That was my verdict; the ruling was final. On the way to the play, Diane saw a man standing on the street corner selling flowers. “Stop!” she shouted, almost causing an accident. “Let’s get some roses for Jean!” I’m not stopping, I insisted. “We’re late for the play – do you want to lose more time? Besides, buying roses on the street is a bad idea. We don’t know where those roses have been. And look at the guy selling them: We don’t know where he’s been either.” I presented my argument with overpowering, unassailable logic, and then glanced at Diane to see her reaction. We drove around the block and purchased a dozen half-wilted street roses wrapped in dingy waxed paper. As we drove away, I wondered where the paper had been.
The play was one of the worst I’d ever seen. Scenery toppled over, actors walked to the wings to get their lines, and at one point, the curtain came down prematurely. Unskilled voices reached for unattainable notes and missed by just enough to send shivers through the entire audience. I could see the hairs stand up on the neck of the person in front of me as voices scraped the scale like fingernails on a blackboard. I was miserable. The roses, too, were visibly suffering through the performance. Talking to flowers supposedly invigorates them, but this was killing them. The final curtain came none too soon. I tried to make a run for the door, but Diane clamped down on my arm. “We have to give the roses to Jean,” she whispered threateningly. “Who wants roses that have been tortured to death?” I mumbled as we headed backstage.
If you haven’t already guessed, Diane is the real minister in our family. She’s always thinking of others. All I could think about that evening were my own needs. I was focused on me, and I was miserable. I was tired. I was bored. I had wanted to stay home. But attending the play wasn’t about me. It was about Jean. I learned another thing as we waded through the backstage throngs of screaming teens. The most ineptly performed, musically excruciating play is an Academy Award performance to the kids in the cast. Diane and I were watching all these teenagers bursting with excitement. Suddenly there was Jean. When she spotted us, she ran squealing down the hallway. “What did you think?” she bubbled. “You were marvelous, “ Diane gushed. “You stole the entire play with your entrance.” Jean looked to me; it was my turn to gush. But my gusher had been killed by the A-flat in the last scene. I quickly thought of the dead flowers.
“Here, these are for you,” I spurted – kind of a “mini-gush.” I pushed the sweaty waxed paper-wrapped bundle toward her. Wide-eyed, she grasped the flowers. She stumbled back against the wall, then slid down until she was sitting on the floor. Her voice caught as a tear-trailed mascara down her cheek. “Thank you for coming,” she said in a trembling voice. “I only had two lines. I didn’t think you’d come.” The sweet smile on Diane’s face perfectly camouflaged the I-told-you-so kick that jolted my shin. Out onstage, the leading lady was still gathering dozens of beautiful roses (from legitimate florists) thrown by the audience. I doubt all those roses together moved her the way a dozen wilted, musically abused roses did Jean.
Monday afternoon there was a knock on my office door. It opened just enough for an eye to peer through the crack. “Can I come in?” asked the eye. Jean swept into the room, pulled up a chair, and straddled it backward with her chin resting on the chair’s back. After some small talk about the play, she came right to the point. “Tell me about Jesus one more time,” she asked. So once again I talked about the sacrifice he’d made. I explained the forgiveness he offers to all who trust him. When I finished she said, “I’m ready.” Before I could give any counsel she closed her eyes, her chin still resting on the chair, and she prayed one of the simplest and loveliest prayers of commitment I’ve ever heard.
When I opened by eyes she was looking directly at me. Without a sound her lips formed the words thank you – and then she was gone. The years that followed confirmed the fact that what happened in my office that day was real. Another truth was also confirmed. Jean’s final step of faith had little to do with the dozens of successful Campus Life meetings I’d led. It was all about a dozen cheap roses, a wad of sweaty waxed paper, and a horrendous high-school play. Ministry comes down to love focused intensely in a single direction. I was a messenger; my wife was a minister.
Just a thought:
I’m glad God is more like Diane than me. He gave up the glory of heaven to come to our play. (And a bad play it was.) He brought only one rose. (And a beautiful rose it was.) That rose was crumpled and ruined by a sin-mangled song that was once the beautiful melody of heaven. Because of that rose, I came to God and said, “I’m ready!” Thank you, God, for coming to my play. Make me more willing to bring roses to someone else today.