One morning last week, as I stepped out onto my front steps, I noticed the buds on my peony bush were just about to burst open.
“Oh, you’ll be open by the time I get home!” I said to them as I walked by. “You can do it!” I was still smiling at them as I dumped my armload of stuff into the car and headed off to work.
That peony bush is special. I planted it four summers ago. The first year, it barely survived one of the hottest, driest, smokiest summers we have had in our area for a very long time. The next summer it grew, got stronger and looked nice, but it didn’t bud. That winter we had a record snowfall—over 100” for the season. I wondered if it would survive, and was so excited to see it pushing its way up through the soil in the spring. By Easter Sunday, it had a beautiful, perfectly round bud beginning to form.
That Sunday, my dad walked up the front steps and noticed the bud. “Look,” he said in his excited voice, “it’s finally going to bloom! That’s great! I can’t wait to see it.”
Four days later, Dad had gone to heaven.
Barely two weeks had passed when a terrible storm swept through our valley and ripped off that perfect bud before it could bloom. My heart was crushed. That tiny bit of destruction was more grievous to me than the thousands of dollars worth of damage we had to deal with at our church. There was insurance and a hardware store to deal with that—but nothing would bring that bud back. The blossom Dad never got to see, would never be seen.
Throughout that day last week, I thought about the peonies about to burst into bloom, wondering how they would look when I got home. In the afternoon, I spoke with someone who told me over and over she needed to be sure she got her car in the garage when she got home because “they’re calling for severe hail.” After last summer, when we hear those words, most of us think of baseball sized craters in vinyl siding, pulverized roofs, and golf ball textured vehicles. I, on the other hand, think of peonies.
All the way home, as I watched lightning flash from sky to earth, I was thinking of those peonies. Finally, my heart cried out, “Lord, please protect my peonies!” But to my surprise that still, sweet voice whispered back, “Why don’t you protect them?”
I was stunned, but then realization struck—that is the essence of chivalry. One of the primary tenants of the knight’s code of chivalry was protection of the weak. Not finding someone else to do it, not going to their master and asking him to find someone to do it, but actually stepping up and protecting those who could not protect themselves. That thought made me wonder about something: How often, when faced with a need, do we say, “God, please protect this person,” or “Lord, please help them”? When, in reality, God wants to do the helping and protecting through us. (It reminds me of Hudson Taylor’s last coin—but that’s a story for another day.)
This was the sight that met my eyes when I got home. I carefully covered it, so that the bush would not be damaged. It never hailed, and eventually I took the cover off so the roots could get some of that luscious spring rain.
The bush is now in full bloom.
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Have you seen someone step up to protect someone or something recently? What, or whom, has God given you to protect? Here’s a little exercise: As you go about your day, be watching for the protective actions of others; a simple need you can meet; or a simple action you can take to protect someone or something. Share about it in the comments below!