Photos have immense power. They capture a moment in time, and every so often, they touch the heart and encourage the soul. Recently one particular photo catapulted me back in time to a thirteen-year-old conversation I had late one Monday evening with my late wife.
I remember the time, the day, and the date as if it happened yesterday. 10 pm Monday, September 10, 2007.
My wife exclaimed, “Tonight’s the night!” I recall glancing up to see an excited look, and a suggestive smile that promised this summer evening would become a joyful memory. It’s amazing how many thoughts can run through a guy’s mind when his beloved utters such a phrase. I promise you, all of my thoughts were good thoughts, very, very good thoughts.
There was a gleam in her eyes as she added, “Tonight is the night for the Queen of the Night!” More words, more thoughts. Keep talking, honey.
“It blooms tonight.” What? Wait a minute. It blooms? What blooms? You bloom, I bloom, we bloom together. Something else gonna bloom? What exactly is “It” that’s going to bloom?
As my assumptions for the evening quickly evaporated, I realized that my spouse’s verbal monologue was not entirely in sync with the mental conversation taking place in my testosterone-soaked mind.
Something special was about to take place this evening, just not what this husband expected.
In 2006, my wife had brought home what appeared to be a “plant” and placed it in the eating area of our kitchen. It wasn’t especially attractive. It had a long stem and only a few leaves and looked more like a weed than some fancy-sounding plant. Yet, this flower went by several names: Epiphyllum oxypetalum, Night-blooming cereus, Dutchman’s pipe, Christ in the Manger, and, of course, Queen of the Night. In response to my coarse observations, my wife ignored my lack of botanical sophistication and explained that this plant was unique, that it blossomed just once a year…always at night…and only for a few hours.
All year long, this unsightly species of cacti took up space. Deriving most of its moisture and nutrients from the air, it nevertheless received water and tender words from its patient adoptive caretaker. Throughout the day of September 10th, the flower’s single pod showed little change. However, early that evening, in her ritual bedtime glance at the plant, my wife noticed a slight change in the pod. This simple flora fluctuation prompted her to utter those words, “Tonight is the night!”
Every 2 hours, she awoke. Walking quietly and gracefully, as if an inadvertent sound might cause the flower to snap shut, she approached the plant, hoping to behold the once a year spectacle.
The 3 am pilgrimage found its answer to her year-long flower-watch vigil.
Moments later, I awoke to a gentle but firm shake and the words, “Come see.” Now the two of us approached and, like the Wise Men to the manger, we stared in silence and wonder at the beauty, elegance, and grace of a single white flower that had exploded just minutes before. The fragrance overwhelmed us. No comments were needed, the inspiring sight and unexpected sweet aroma confirmed that the wait was worth it. St. Matthew’s words about the lilies (or in this case, the Night-blooming cereus) echoed within our sleepy hearts… “Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.” (Matthew 6:29)
By morning the flower had wilted. Its annual eruption complete, its mission accomplished, it was once again an awkward-looking green stem of a plant.
But the wonder still lingered. Anyone else looking at the picture (see featured image) would never imagine the story behind it. Yes, this picture captured a special memory for sure. But the Queen of the Night provided an unexpected lesson and proclaimed a powerful truth. Life is short, bloom where you are planted, fulfill God’s purpose, and be sure one’s life legacy has a fragrance worth sensing.
May the wonders of creation point the way to the Creator, and may the aroma of our lives draw others to Him.
II Corinthians 2:15: “….for we are the aroma of Christ….”