"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." (Luke 12:27)
Have you ever tried to grow roses? We've always had a rose bush or two in the yard, but they are a lot of trouble. They need plenty of water, but if they get too wet, mildew is a problem. With too little water, leaves turn yellow and bugs attack.
We happen to think the blooms are worth the trouble it takes to keep them going. Those luminous shades of pink, red and orange come right out of a Renaissance painting. The scent of a few cut roses can change the atmosphere in a room. Summer roses are a gift, but the blooms we anticipate most are the last ones to open before the first hard frost.
Here's something we've noticed. Late in autumn, a rose bush often sends up one final bud, waiting to burst like a Fourth of July fireworks finale. Today, the bush by our doorstep has a magnificent pink rose atop a four-foot spike. It is as though the bush stretches, making one grand, parting effort before winter. We like to think our autumn roses are saying, "Look! I'm not done yet!"
People, too, can bloom like autumn roses. They produce abundantly in the prime of life. Then, just when everybody assumes their prime is past, here comes a spike of energy producing a magnificent, last burst of color.
Until his death at age 88, Michelangelo worked as the architect of St. Peter's, designing the dome in his final years. Violin maker Antonio Stradivari produced two of his most famous violins at age 92. The talents we have always used remain with us and can grow sharper, even though our bodies sometimes betray us as we age.
There are other qualities that shine in our later years. Roman statesman Cicero had it right when he said, "It is not by muscle, speed or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is…even richer."
In old age, the love we have always carried in our hearts blooms stronger than ever. In retirement, the desire to make a difference can cause us to reach for new heights. At this point, freed from working for earthly success, we take great joy in blooming, just because we can, right where we have been planted.
No longer always having to fulfill others' expectations, we can choose to take great delight in being who we are. Many of us still have time and energy for one last, challenging burst of life, stretching for the sun, giving glory to the One who created us.