Flowers That Glide: Writing, Dying, & Pride

Flowers butterfly

Have you had it where words won’t come? When your heart hurt so much that it bled, but none of that precious ink would drain through your hand? Could it be that God designed dying seasons with your writing life or pride in mind?

Working, and Writing, in Secret

I’m guilty. I act as if worth is found in public, as if a thing is only of value if I publish or post. My motives for sharing* are not always right.

When I live like this, my faith is weak. When I live for the praise of man, my soul shrinks. I’m deaf to my Lord’s words. “He who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Jesus repeats that again and again (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18) to underscore the warning he gave the disciples in verse one.

What was the warning?

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Do we do our righteous deeds “to be seen by them,” or do “we make it our aim to please Him“?

It’s not a question of if we do the thing—the praying or fasting or giving, or the writing and creative working. Instead it’s a question of why. The biblical way is not that we make names for ourselves, but that we make God’s name great. Our creativity is derivative, or imitative, of God’s. Lest we forget these two truths, God may send his dear workers winter.

Enter “The Flower.” It is a splendid, seven-stanza poem by the 17th-century, English poet George Herbert. It has been a means of grace this week.

‘The Flower’

How Fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev’n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shrivel’d heart
Could have recover’d greenness? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell,
We say amiss,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.
O that I once past changing were;
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Offring at heav’n, growing and groning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring-showre,
My sinnes and I joining together;
But while I grow to a straight line;
Still upwards bent, as if heav’n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?
And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my only light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.

George Herbert has something to say to those in silent, dry seasons. He knows what it is to be dead to the world and to keep house unknown.

We are flowers in God’s garden that blossom and flourish, then wither and decline. Herbert has learned that whatever the season, God delights when we abide in Him. This is to glide.

And Now In Age I Bud Again

No matter our age, the poem pulsates in us who long to see our words and our work blossom and bear eternal fruit.

And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my only light

Winter is past. Now in age, Herbert the wordsmith buds again. Writing and life and writing life return, refreshing like dew and and rain. George relishes versing.

So hope on, friends. Barren seasons and dry spells are not the end.

Far from it. Dying to self brings freedom and life. “Unless a grain of wheat dies,Jesus told Andrew and Philip, “it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.This death is as a seed “dies” when it is buried in the ground and germinates. Jesus would be crucified, buried, and burst forth—the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

But our hard, outer husk must be humbled down low before flower and fruit can appear. This might feel like the God’s frost, frown, and anger. But, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love (Lamentations 3:31-33). In fact, our dry spells and shrivel’d hearts sound an awful lot like Paul’s thorn.

The thorn was sent to keep Paul from becoming conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7). Our barren time under ground keeps us from swelling, from becoming conceited, and forfeiting Paradise by pride. The Lord does hate pride (Proverbs 6:17-19, 8:13, 16:5).

Because He loves us and wants us to bide in his garden, God acts to kill our pride.

A Flower That Glides

This is not to say all dry seasons are sent by God strictly to banish pride. But it is to say that peace and joy come when we learn to glide.

Which brings us back to that exquisite last stanza. Herbert’s eyes are wide open to God’s severe mercy and uncomfortable grace.

These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.

Now he sees his barren season as, get this, a wonder of God’s love. Because in the winter, in the heart’s shriveled, hidden season, he learned meekness and humility. He learned this gift to come down to where we ought to be.

Now the radiant poet knows that he is not his own. Nor are we.

We are not past changing. But we can be flowers that glide.

For behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come.

Song of Songs 2:11-12a

*To post or not to post? These 10 questions from Kevin DeYoung’s “Think Before You Post” have helped me decide.

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