One of my favourite places to walk is along a cliff path, with gardens on one side and the ever-restless sea on the other. Along the winding path are several lavender bushes, their brilliance impossible to miss. The bushes have no obvious aroma – just colour.
But I like to pluck off a few lavender heads as I walk by and squeeze them between my fingers. Only then do they release their unmistakeable scent. Obviously the flowers are demolished in the process – they pay the ultimate sacrifice -- but my hands are left with a pleasant smell as I continue my journey.
It has occurred to me on my stroll that it’s not just lavender that releases its fragrance when squeezed. We have all met people whom, for one reason or another, life has embittered. Whether they have been treated unjustly by others or debilitated by accident or illness, their souls have become shrivelled.
On the other hand there are also beautiful, gentle people – and I’m sure you know some of them too – for whom suffering has been a catalyst for character, who have received beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning (Isaiah 61:3).
In the words of psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004): “These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Some of you will know about the Beauty For Ashes Ministries begun by Jim and Tonia Butler in Tauranga 13 years ago. If you live in the Bay of Plenty region and your soul needs a lift right now, you might be inspired to hear Tonia’s story at a Beautiful Woman of God conference on September 1 in Te Puke (www.beautyforashesministriesnz.org).
Women of Influence is another inspiring conference coming up on July 27-28, initiated by women from Blenheim Baptist Church
(www. womenofinfluence.org.nz). Have you noticed how the Holy Spirit has a way of bringing encouragement to us just when we need it?
“For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15, NASB).
Are you feeling extraordinary pressures at the moment? Remember the lavender – the plant that releases its perfume when crushed.