Growing up I had a problem with God. I loved the natural world, but was well aware of its dark side. I knew the word ‘gall bladder’ at an early age, because my adorable cat would hunt, catch, torture and eat mice, always leaving that bitter part on the garden path!
I loved plants and flowers too, but hated the way they died in the vase causing the water to smell so bad. My plants always died too, either from my overwatering or sheer neglect. Yes, God’s creation was beautiful, but not perfect, and neither was I.
My Grandmother grew coleus plants in pots in her greenhouse. I chose one with reddish pink variegated leaves edged with green, and it sat on the windowsill of my Glasgow bedsit. Sadly, like those gone before, it died.
It was a Friday when I left for my long September weekend with the youth group of Charlotte Baptist Chapel. Closing the door, I glanced at my dead coleus and gave a sigh. It was while I was away at the St Ninian’s Centre in Crieff that I finally understood the death of Jesus was for my sins. He drank the ‘gall’ of suffering, the bitter cup of God’s judgement, that I might know the sweetness of His closeness.
I returned late on Monday night with what felt like new life pumping through my veins.
My dry brown plant was sitting on the windowsill; I noticed it as I got into bed. For a moment I considered getting up to water it, but I didn’t. It was well and truly dead. Imagine my shock and delight when in the morning my coleus had sprung back into life. The leaves were fresh, lush and healthy.
I was a new believer, avidly devouring the New Testament. It wasn’t long before I reached the book of Romans. Then I realised God had answered my problem! One day when Christ returns and the children of God are bodily resurrected and revealed together with Him, the whole of creation will be delivered from its bondage to corruption and share our freedom (Romans 8:19-25). No more death. No more decay.
Of course, like those raised to life by Jesus in the Gospels, my coleus plant later died again. It was a temporary comeback, but a glorious sign of Christian hope. In this season of Advent, as we look forward to celebrating Christmas, we also eagerly wait for Christ’s second coming and inwardly groan with all of creation until that day when all things will be made new.