65 Roses, Emeralds, and a Compost Pile
By Joanne Highley
Published November 1992
Riding on a jet from Chicago after taping the Jerry Springer show I was glancing through a gift catalogue graciously provided by US Air. My eyes fell on a wreath, which was full of red roses and the sales pitch read:
The sixty-five roses wreath was inspired by a four year-old boy unable to pronounce the name of his disease, cystic fibrosis. Instead, he said “65 roses”. Since that time 65 roses has been the symbol of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
My mind immediately switched to a scene back in Kansas City, where we lived for twenty-five years before moving to New York City. Our neighbor from Yugoslavia used to share rather intimately about her hemorrhoids, but with her accent and lack of vocabulary it always came out “emeralds” rather than hemorrhoids.
Somehow such childlike slips of the tongue take some of the starkness out of these problems. Many times we can see a problem as so horrendous and terminal that a look at the flip side is needed.
My drama coach used to teach me to “play against the scene” – if a heavy tragic moment, lighten a bit or if a comic scene is played lend some seriousness to it to keep a balanced perspective.
Many of us who are trapped in the deceitfulness of sin and the lies that we have bought into instead of God’s TRUTH find our thoughts full of gloom and doom, seeing bad things and expecting worse, even believing if bad things happen to us God is against us to destroy us. This is spoken of in Isaiah 8:19-22.
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word they will have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished they will become enraged and looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom and they will be thrust into utter darkness.
Thank God He did not leave us in this state but went on in Isaiah 9:1 and following to proclaim:
Nevertheless there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress… The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Why, now that you have read this great message of TRUTH and hope, are some of you not elated and rejoicing because of such a promise?
It is because you have emotional and mental habit patterns that hold you in despair. Maybe even good news makes you more depressed – more angry. Because you are so used to being left out, rejected, lonely, and abandoned, you find yourself stuck in the false identity of your past experience. You live and relive the curse of words, the bitter wounding, the old scenarios of rage and violence or cold silences and implied guilt – and resentment at God for all of it happening to you.
Is there really a way to smell the “65 roses” in cystic fibrosis? To see “emeralds” in your hemorrhoids? To count it joy when you go through various trials? Or will it always be hopelessness, despair, loneliness, and shame. “Nobody loves me and God is against me.” Can you step out of darkness into His marvelous light?
The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ says a resounding “yes, you can!” But you must work through that emotional and mental garbage that blocks you from ever being the one that will be loved, the one that will be chosen, the one that will be happy and free.
Job had the very same reaction to pain and loss. He developed a big case against God, others, and life. He kept saying, “If I did get a trial before God, it would not be fair. God lets the wicked get away with murder but watches my every move to smash me.” You see, the pain Job experienced was not interpreted as affliction to show him something about how ungodly his reaction to pain had been. This is perhaps the toughest realization of all – I was hurt and now I’m filled with all kinds of ungodly responses to pain including a false concept of God which I won’t let go of because I’m mad that He let this happen to me.
But in Job 36, the wise friend Elihu teaches Job a great lesson:
…if men are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, he tells them what they have done – that they have sinned arrogantly. He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil. If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge.
The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when He fetters them they do not cry for help. They die in their youth, among male prostitutes of the shrines. But those who suffer He delivers in their suffering; He speaks to them in their affliction.
Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction.
We know it is not easy to let go of the old patterns of resentment, hopelessness and despair. We have an investment in our pain, a protective suit fashioned from our case against God and others whom we thought had a case against us. Where will it ever end if we don’t end it by dropping our case – by justifying God and not our sin. Let us proclaim, “I will not agree with these emotions I feel which were inspired by the sins of my fathers and perpetuated by my joining in with them in resentment to keep them alive in me. These emotions are in me but I don’t want them to be a part of me any more.
Sit down now and write a page or two telling God all the ways you have been hurt, all the knocks and slights and ugly words used against you. Then be honest – tell Him all the ungodly stuff you have stored inside to retaliate get even, or get ahead – though it never worked. Then, if you can, tell Him you want to give up your case against Him and the world and let Him be your God and you be His child. He’ll be right there and as you turn from all your ungodly reactions He will cleanse you. He will restore what the locusts have eaten. I know you will be able to smell the roses again. More than that you will be the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him every place you go.
As to the compost pile, any gardener will tell you that the best way to have good soil is to build a pile of old leaves, grass clippings, garbage, manure, or what-have-you; let it sit a few months, and by God’s great alchemy, out comes the greatest fertilizer in the world.
Well, I did that. I gave God all the refuse of my life – all the anger, hatred, murder, slander, lesbianism, bitterness, resentment, judgment – whatever – and He took it and turned it into rich fertilizer for others’ lives. You see, in God’s wise economy, there is never a wasted time in our lives. God will work it all together for good. As one of our dear sisters said recently, “God showed me He will turn my incest into incense.” Hallelujah for such a God!