Good Intentions and God’s Intentions
As a preacher who loves flowers, writes about flowers and yes, as my congregation will attest, really loves to preach about how God instructs us and comforts us through flowers, I was in heaven…at least as close to heaven as I will come on this earth. Growing right outside my back door was a Silk Road Lily of epic proportions. Even in early June the flower had grown to six feet tall, over twenty flowers had presented themselves on the graceful but sturdy stem. Other similar lilies growing alongside, although beautiful and healthy, were dwarfed by comparison. Clearly this was a flower for the ages. Even the neighborhood deer, who plague me always, munching and lunching on my flower garden, nibbled the flowers around the giant lily; but dared not to touch this majestic botanical treasure.
The preacher in me had a sermon at the ready and with every day that passed, the message I felt inspired to share became more and more clear. This lily would help me remind my congregation of how important it is that we give to God the first fruits and our best efforts. That which seems most precious to us is the only fitting gift for a Lord and Savior who has given all for us. I would cut the lily at its peak, place it in the front of the church and preach the best flower sermon ever. I wondered how I would properly display the lily. All the vases at the church and at home were definitely too small and short for such a lofty blossom. Then, as if the Almighty had been reading my mind, there was a knock on my study door. The Humane Society had had a garage sale in our fellowship hall. One very, very tall vase had not sold. The volunteer in charge asked if the church could use such an odd sized vase. Well, that was it. Now I had the flower, the vessel and the message. The Flower Preacher was ready to roll and raise the roof!
My path was clear. My intentions were good; but God had other plans. The weather was very warm. We had quite a bit of rain. The lily was growing too fast and would be in full bloom way too soon! By the end of June, the lily had grown to seven feet, seven inches tall. Twenty-two flowers graced the top of the stem, blooming in all their glory. The flower was at its peak and ready to cut. The problem for the Flower Preacher was that, when the flower was at its peak, the preacher was out of the pulpit. Planned surgery and an unplanned illness meant that I would not be at church to preach the best flower sermon ever, with the best example of first fruits ever to bloom. I could take a picture and tell the story; but it would not have the same impact. How could my best intentions have gone so wrong?
As I reflected on God’s timing versus my timing, I began to see that the lesson in the giant lily might have been a bit different than the one I had thought it to be. How often in our lives do we make plans to do what we believe to be God’s will for us? We have the best of intentions and then something happens and our plans are changed, our best intentions shattered. Only in hindsight to we see that God had the long-range view. God had the better plan and had to make changes in our plans so that His plan would prevail. In the Book of Proverbs, we read:
Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:20-22 (NIV)
Perhaps, the lesson that God meant to teach with this lovely lily was that the method of “preaching” His Word would be that of a newspaper article and not a sermon. The story is the same. It is the way of telling the story that is different. We should offer to the Lord our best from the depths of our souls and for me, my soul has always sung the loudest and the sweetest with words, written words. How blessed our lives are when we know that our intentions and God’s intentions are one and lead us to the One who saves us all.
Rev. Deborah S. Linville
Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Wilmington