My mother came for a visit recently and brought with her a revelation about my beginnings. I was a high-risk baby.
“And he still is!” my wife said, puffing at a strand of hair.
“No,” I protested, “She didn’t say ‘high maintenance.’ She said ‘high risk.’ ”
Since my responsibility as a chaplain includes the high-risk unit, I quickly appreciated the meaning of my mother’s ordeal. Her doctor ordered her on bed rest so she wouldn’t lose me during the pregnancy.
For weeks on end, she struggled to keep life within her. And with all her strength, determination and prayer, she chose to fight for life.
My mom’s determination to hold and bring forth life is a phenomenon mirrored in nature. It is a phenomenon I contemplated last Sunday morning as I went for a walk on a sunny but blustery day.
Recently, we’ve had some annoying weather in the form of constant rain. While not as bad as the snow smothering the Northeast or the tornadoes that snarled the Southeast, it felt like Mother Nature took her best shot to drown a few of us.
As I took mindful steps through the streets, I saw evidence life was prevailing and the wind was pushing away the blankets of cloudy doubts that winter had piled on.
In a yard, families of pruned roses huddled together, trying to exist in obscurity. Normally, they are the queens of horticulture, but during the winter they lie in pretense, as if somehow they won’t be gorgeous.
Like a pregnant mother, they await the incubation of beauty. Their pruned bases — knobby, snarled and ugly — refuse to reveal their identity until spring. It will be at that time when they will leap with unimaginable beauty to catch the heart of one in love.
In the yard of another neighbor, I stared at the bareness of a single tree, barren, save for one last leaf. The leaf held firm as if it is declaring, “Winter, you have no influence here!” The leaf waved me past like a shriveled old soldier motioning me away, all the while holding vigil for the arrival of a new and younger guard coming in spring buds.
Meanwhile, families of daffodils employed a different strategy against the stubborn winter. They are determined to risk suffocation in the winter wind just to be the first to flaunt their beauty before a greening lawn. Like pajama models walking down a green catwalk, they stretch out their arms and yawn at their imagined sleep.
I glanced at my watch and realized church soon would be starting, so I set a quickened pace back home and up my driveway. I paused momentarily in my driveway and make one last note of life’s stubborn determination.
Growing through a crack, a weed bloomed.
As I reach to pulled it, I stopped short. Life is so absolutely convincing in its determination to come forth. How can I dare halt that process even in a weed?
I stared at the weed and then back up the street. From these horticulture witnesses, I’d heard testimony of the amazing way God nourishes life and calls it forth from the most impossible places.
And with that thought, I went inside and looked up the number for a florist. Some roses for mom from her high-risk son would be nice — the low-risk kind, minus the thorns.