Ezekiel 2:6 – And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. (KJV)
My father-in-law was a remarkable man. When he passed away recently at the age of 94, we saw so much more of his life that we perhaps had taken for granted. As we moved through the material possessions that had shaped his outer self, we saw even more of who the man inside had been.
His life had not always been easy. Arriving from Europe at the age of 22, he immediately found work on the railroad and began the arduous job of learning our language, as evidenced by his old scribbler. He made whatever he needed with whatever scraps of metal or wood he had at hand and he was recycling before we ever heard the term. We saw belt buckles that had been used for latches on little boxes; an old wooden utensil handle fastened onto a scoop with claws to become a huckleberry picker; a wooden rake to accompany his scythe and many other innovative creations.
By scrimping and saving, he had sent money home to help his family, had educated his younger brother, married, made a family and saved for a home of their own. Choosing a lot that was clay and rocks but offered a beautiful view, they picked out the rocks and hand-ploughed manure into the clay, preparing the yard for what would be a most magnificent garden of radiant roses, beautiful flowers, vegetables and an ever-bountiful crop of fruit, walnuts and grapes.
He suffered the tragic death of his beloved first wife and when his second wife took ill, he insisted on being the sole caregiver, continuing the upkeep of house, home and garden as best he could, still making wine from the grapes in the garden in his 93rd year. He lived by a strong faith that continued to grow stronger in his later years.
Undaunted by a new land, hard work, losses or any of life's other lessons, his endurance, unfaltering faith and faithfulness is the legacy he has left us.
In cleaning out some of the overgrowth in the garden after his passing, the thorns of the roses were piercing my hands and arms, scraping my face and catching at my pantlegs. I had no gloves, which might not have helped anyway, because the roses were old, their thorns thick and sharp, but the buds kept coming and the blooms were beautiful.
As I stopped to take out some of the thorns and wrap my arms in towels for protection, I wondered how on earth Christ, taunted and stripped of his clothing, had endured even the crown of thorns, let alone the crucifixion. It was a stark reminder that our strength to endure what happens to us on earth comes from our Father in heaven.
Prayer: Our heavenly Father, grant us the wisdom to learn from all the Old Roses in our lives all that they endure, whatever life hands them. Let us listen to our elders, respect other species and life forms, and appreciate your beauty before us — even when, or especially when, we face ridicule in doing so. In your name we pray. Amen.