A Rose is a Rose is a Rose. Or is it?


Eager, I ripped open the long, thin box left moments earlier on my front porch, now laid out on my kitchen counter. Advertisement markings on the exterior offered a clear indication of the contents. Impatient to bury my nose in flowers, anticipation of aromatic bliss motivated swift fingers. I imagined vibrant colors bathed in rich, luscious fragrance.  Reaching into the bright green cardboard container I carefully removed twelve of the most stunning crimson long-stem roses I’d ever beheld.  I raised them to my beaming face expecting a glorious scent. I breathed deep. Breathed deep again. Nothing.

Not even a hint of the hoped-for nasal ambrosia. The only thing enveloping my olfactories? Disappointment.

I glanced back at the delivery box. ProFlowers. A thought raced across my mind and passed through my lips: What’s so ‘Pro’ about fragrance-free flowers?

In my mind I contrasted them with the bush growing just outside the back door of our family farm house. Once upon a time, a bare brown six-inch shoot poked out of the ground. For years I watched and marveled as Grandmother, then later Mother, tenderly cared for the burgeoning perennial. Each spring and summer, these devoted gardeners watered, weeded, fertilized, trimmed, and toiled over an emerging mini-shrub until blossoms and buds burst forth. Now the size of our riding lawn tractor, season after season this flowering cluster of roses floods Momma’s yard with the color of sacrifice and fragrance of heaven.

Thoughts and eyes returned to the elegant yet scentless roses in my grasp. I scurried to cut them as directed by a box insert, filled a vase, and arranged them in a captivating configuration to place on my table. At the time I didn’t understand why a tear leaked down my cheek.

Now I get it.

Florist-grown roses are indeed lovely to behold. By the time they arrive, they’re washed free of fertilizer and dirt. Roots stripped. Thorns removed. All in the name of delivering visual delight. The outcome—a skillful disguise of painstaking, messy, yet loving effort involved in growing something truly beautiful. Moreover, mass production robs roses of their fragrance. A considerable part of their intended purpose, stolen. They might as well be plastic. Except they die, never having accomplished what roses were meant for…filling a space with magnificent aroma.

As women, we face tremendous pressure to be the long stem rose rather than part of the bush. Society shrieks at us to not merely stand apart from the cluster but also to look good at all costs. Clean up the fertilizer {you know what I’m intimating here}. Shake off the dirt that soils our souls. Forget our roots, that which causes us to grow and venture deep. Throw away the prickly thorns that protect us from outside threats. Be pretty. And somewhere in the midst of mass-produced efforts to look pleasing to the outside world, we stifle our inner fragrance.

Why do we fight the struggle that makes us beautiful in the first place? What would happen if we exposed all parts of the rose to the world? Even the smelly, messy, prickly, painful parts? What splendid scent would be revealed in us if we acknowledged and embraced our gardening process, however labored or agonizing?

We are beautiful. Not because of something we drape on our body, dangle from our earlobes, smear across our face, or sweat off at the gym. We are beautiful because the Master Gardener devoted Himself to growing something of true loveliness in each of us. We are beautiful not in spite of the growing process but because of it. The ever vigilant Divine Caretaker comes alongside us to plant Truth in our hearts, Truth about our worth and significance. He saturates us with Living Water ever rising up, a spring of hope within us. He trims withered leaves and dark, crusty petals of unhealthy desires to expose radiant velvet, reflecting His Light.  He pulls ugly, smothering weeds, eliminating people and things that prevent us from thriving in His grand and gorgeous garden. He even allows us to be covered in “fertilizer” at times because He knows that without the elements of suffering, pain of loss, sadness of grieving, we bear limitations in how deep our roots stretch and how fragrant we ultimately grow.

The more willingly we cooperate with the Gardener’s tender toiling over us, the more regal the rose. True beauty results from embracing the thorns for the sake of the lavish, sumptuous scent God intended in us.

Will we settle for the scentless long-stem delivered in cardboard, destined to die without ever accomplishing its purpose? Or will we grow into a timeless, resplendent, redolent rose in the Garden of the Mater’s touch?


Test-Driving Relationships: A Guy’s Perspective

I offered and some brave soul took me up on it…a guest blog opportunity for a man to reply to the question of “test-driving your relationships”. 

John has been in Single’s Ministry for nearly 2 decades.  He wishes you to know he is an Alpha male who truly loves Jesus but doesn’t always get it right.  He also wishes you to know he isn’t a writer and not always as delicate at speaking his mind as some would like.  But I trust his heart and in 8 years of friendship I’ve never doubted His passion for serving singles nor His crazy, full-on devotion to Christ.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you John…

Caution: Danger ahead. Do not proceed if you don’t honestly want to understand how men think.  This road isn’t for the faint of heart.  Fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight.

I waited to write a guest blog to see if anyone else would.  I’m a coward like most other men and didn’t want to be the one to have to explore this but the elephant remains in the middle of the road and we are all trying to drive around it.  So here goes.
First, let’s name the elephant.  It’s the question everyone is thinking but no one dares ask out loud in print.  Why do men Test-Drive women in the first place?
There, that wasn’t so bad.  Was it?  Now we can get to my second point which is the premise on which everything else I say will be based.
The question rephrased really comes down to why are single men constantly on the look out for the most beautiful woman we can find?  There are a number of reasons.  Notice I said reasons, not excuses because I am not excusing our behavior.  Before I drive into them, here’s the premise I promised.
Men are visual.

Does that shock you?  If that makes you angry, blame God.  He created men to be visual.  Sure women like a good-looking man.  But how many times have you seen an average looking guy with a stunning woman compared to the other way around?  Maybe the later happens once in a while.  If she’s a cougar with a boatload of money.  But the average Jack & Jill don’t work that way.  So here’s another way of explaining this.  Men buy magazines to look at cars and women.  Women buy magazines, from Teen to Glamour to look at, you guessed it, other women.  So they can painstakingly model the other women.  So men will notice them.  Because men are VISUAL CREATURES. 
Are we clear on the premise?  Good.  Now about test-driving.  Here’s your top 5 reasons men do that.
1.  Men have vivid imaginations.  We don’t simply notice physical beauty.  We like to try it on in our minds.  We try to be respectful of the woman we are with.  My head has never turned when I’m with my gal and a pretty woman walks by but I’ve had to close my eyes a time or two cos my eyes were rolling to the back of my head to follow her.  In a moment of temporary insanity, I pictured myself with the hot babe who just passed by.  Why?  Because it is an ego boost.  For a legit guy in a loving relationship, we will return to our sanity and realize there is no more beautiful woman in God’s universe than the one we are enjoying coffee with or sharing life with.  But still in the back of our mind we wonder, ‘what if?’  As a Christian, this is one reason I beg my brothers not to look at porn.  Air brushed, pouty lipped women sans clothing have a way of hanging around in our memory rolodex.  A beautiful godly woman can’t and shouldn’t ever have to compare.  We dishonor women when we expect them to live up to fantasy standards, with or without porn involved.  Men have to be deliberate about guarding our eyes.  In those moments when the hot babe passes in front of our eyes, we have to take our thoughts captive.  Fast.  Hopefully before our eyes roll to the back of our head.
2.  Men want to impress our friends.  We may not go into public bathrooms with our buds.  Or spend hours on the phone with one another.  But we care what our friends think.  Every guy at some point likes to imagine all his friends want his girl.  Think, “Jessie’s Girl”.  Only with cleaner lyrics.  “Where can I find a woman like that?  Like Jessie’s Girl?”  Pathetic, yes.  But it makes us feel more masculine if other men notice and admire the woman we are with.  It’s an affirmation.  Approval.  Admiration.  Call it what you will but we need it.  If we are not looking to Christ for our affirmation, we leave room for a meaningless substitute.  I’ve found the more time I spend in the Word and the more I get who God says I am, the more I am affirmed by the one who matters, and the less pre-occupied I am with what my friends think.
3.  Men want to bear children with attractive women.  Somehow we equate pretty and thin with healthy.  Healthy wife, healthy offspring, healthy family.  Long live the King!  The unfortunate side of that is we often make fools of ourselves dating women much younger, still of child-bearing age even when we no longer want children, rather than seek commonalities with a godly woman our own age who is beautiful in her own way.  The good side of that is, we seek a life long partner healthy enough to grow old with.  Eventually, Lord willing, the adolescent driver grows up.  He leaves the revolving door auto dealership.  He commits to one vehicle.  If he’s wise he will realize the more he invests in TLC & diligent maintenance, the greater his enjoyment of the ride even through the hills and valleys. 
4.  Men understand the science of gravity.  We know that over time a woman who is a physical 9 will inevitably become an 8.2 even if she works at it.  Because nature will invariably take its course.  So we hold out for a 10, hoping to end up with a 9.3 after nature does its damage.  While I’m on this point, we fear that once we are married a woman who looked to us like a 10 on our wedding day will stop working at her appearance after the honeymoon.  Come on guys.  Can I get an AMEN?  Do you women honestly expect us not to notice when you stop wearing make-up, throw your hair up into a pony-tail, pack on the pounds cos you cancel your gym membership but wear sweats around the house day in, day out?  I realize this is not exactly spiritual, just honest.  But hang on.  The spiritual application is coming.  When a Christian man marries, he is committing for life.  He willingly forsakes all others and faithfully commits his desires to one woman for the rest of his life.  He hopes his beautiful bride will continue her efforts to be beautiful in part to help protect him from worldly temptations that are everywhere.  I’m not blaming women whose men cheat.  Just asking women to consider what it does to a VISUAL CREATURE when other women go to great lengths to look their best, even flaunt their goods while the woman he loves is indifferent to her appearance.  And oblivious to her effect on him.  REAL Christian men don’t expect Super Models greeting them at the door.  Just someone who makes an effort to look good for us.
5.  Men lack confidence.  A big reason we test-drive is to build up confidence.  I realize that sounds like a contradiction of the ego point I made earlier.  But follow my logic.  Men have a big enough ego we want to be with a gorgeous woman.  But because we are generally the ones asking out the woman we take the brunt of rejection.  We may test-drive an average looking model just to build up courage to take out a better looking one.  Once accomplished, we feel empowered to continue to trade up.  And up.  And up.  And so it goes.  The bottom line is, every man fancies himself with a 10.  Even if he has to start with a 6 & work his way up.  But if looks are all we base our relationships on, the 10 will soon start to look like a 9 to us.  And then an 8.  And so it goes.  We will never be satisfied.  This is why Michael Lawrence’s questions are so important. ( Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend ) God has a completely different and a much healthier approach to choosing a mate than the old worn out scale of 1 to 10.  By basing our relationships in Biblical principles we see women first as sisters in Jesus worthy of our respect.  We hang out more in groups. We have fun with all kinds of women.  Then we have multiple chances to build confidence with women in ways that don’t defraud or mislead them.  Best of all, we discover the real 10, that godly, fruitful, spiritually beautiful woman Michael refers to in his article.
So there you have it.  The raw truth about why men test-drive a relationship until they are sure no one ‘better’ is right around the corner.  I’m sure there are other reasons, lame as they are.  I’m not proud of these things.  But I’m not alone in this.  Which brings me to my final thought.  If any man tells you that these 5 points don’t apply to him, he is lying.  This is universal.  For those of you in Rio Linda, as Rush would say, that means it applies to ALL men at some point in our life.  If not all throughout our life.  Some do a better job of taming the ‘what if’ notions.  But we all come face to face with it sooner or later.  Wise is the woman who takes this to heart and realizes that test-driving has nothing to do with her real, God-instilled beauty.  Di has already covered that.  If you missed it go back and read her Captivating blogs.
I’m done.  You may commence hating me now. Or hopefully not.  Hopefully, you will pray for me.  And for my mixed up brothers who want to walk in the Spirit but as long as we live in the flesh we are prone to stupid fleshly behaviors.  Including test-drives.  But maybe, just maybe as all you spiritually beautiful, fruitful, godly women out there pray for us we will be less concerned about taking another spin around the block and more willing to drive off into the sunset with the one.