Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 6, 2018


The lesson of the flower seeds


One of the great blessings of old age is the memory of lessons learned when you were young. Springtime reminds me of a lovely spring day when our sons were young boys – and the important lesson I learned from planting flower seeds.

My desk was piled high with work that begged for my attention. But it was a beautiful spring day so I yielded to temptation, called home and suggested to my wife Dean that we get out in the yard and work with our flowers.

She happily agreed and within an hour we were in our yard. The dirt felt good as we began to prepare a new flower bed. On our hands and knees, we turned the soil with a small spade, threw aside grass and weeds, mixed in some peat moss with richer soil hauled in from the nearby woods.

We had plenty of help. Three of our boys were at home, the other in school. And true to form, our three little helpers pitched in with zeal – spilling peat moss everywhere, getting quite dirty, and bickering over who would get to use the shovel.

When the bed was ready for planting, the boys and I hurried to the nearest store. We found a bargain in zinnia seeds – a large package usually priced at $1.49, marked down to 99 cents. It was just the thing for us. Back home we relaxed a few minutes, enjoyed lemonade and proudly showed Mom our purchase. She confirmed our wise buy.

I went inside to get everything ready for planting the seeds. A few minutes later I returned to the den to get the package of seeds, but to my dismay the package was empty. I did not need a detective to know who the culprits were!

In the backyard I found Mark and Tim busy, but without one flower seed. I was impatient and demanded to know where they had put the zinnia seeds. Sheepishly they confessed: “We planted them!” Now I was angry. Grabbing each boy by the hand, I insisted they show me where the seeds were planted.

They led me on a merry, fruitless tour of the yard, pointing first under a rock, then behind a pine tree. “Dig,” I commanded, “and find those seeds!” They tried valiantly – but each time came up with nothing but a little more dirt under their fingernails. To say the least, I was exasperated. Since it was no obvious they boys could not find the seeds, I marched them inside, paddled them soundly, and put them to bed – in the middle of a beautiful spring afternoon!

Disgusted, I reflected on the incident. How did the boys manage to get their hands on the package anyway? I had given them to Mom, and she was looking them over. Sure – that’s it! Mom had carelessly put the package down where the boys could get it! It was her fault!

With a full head of steam now I sought out Mom and began questioning her as though she was on the witness stand. What did you do with the package? She calmly admitted leaving it on the couch. Calling upon my huge capacity for the harsh and sarcastic, I spat the words at her. In no uncertain terms I told her how stupid she had been. “Anybody would have known better than to leave the seeds where the boys could get them!”

To my amazement she quietly agreed. This stunned me! I knew she was capable of verbal explosions almost equal to mine. So, even more harshly now, I repeated my judgments upon her. Again she calmly agreed and apologized for her carelessness.

Her response floored me. She was disgustingly kind! If only she would become angry too, it would help me justify my own anger. But there she was – acting every bit like a Christian! Finally I retreated – and walked into the den. Passing by the piano my eyes fell upon a startling sight – there on the bench were six small packets of flower seeds. Zinnias! Five had not been opened. One was torn open but many seeds were still inside. Obviously these six packets could have come from only one place – from inside the large missing package.

Mark and Tim were still wiping big tears away when I got to their bedroom. I sat on the bed and asked them one question: “Boys, how many flower seeds did you plant?” Mark lifted his tear-stained face and said, “Three.” Tim answered next, between sniffles, “One.”

Talk about a contrite heart, I had one! How stupid I had been – and all over four flower seeds. Painfully embarrassed, I gathered Mark and Tim in my arms and apologized.

Mom was next on the apology list. Again her behavior brought me to my knees. She did not “rub it in” and lecture me for my outburst of angry impatience. She was graciously kind and understanding. She knew I was hurting inside. Suddenly, and gloriously, a light came on for me. It dawned on me that in our home – at a time when I really needed it – the grace of God had been marvelously real! When I desperately needed him, God had been present.

Dean had not been “acting” like a Christian – she was simply being one! What better way for God to make his grace known than through an understanding, forgiving wife when her husband had been unkind and impatient?

Instead of getting what I deserved, I had received love and understanding. A relationship that could have been bruised by senseless impatience had been saved by undeserving love. I realized that the time when we really need the understanding of those we love is not when we are at our best – but when we are at our worst.

Few words were spoken as we took the six packets of flower seeds and resumed our family project. The seeds were soon planted. As we put the finishing touches on our new flower bed, I silently asked God to forgive me for my impatience.

In due season our zinnias made their way up and added to the loveliness of our small part of this great, big, beautiful, wonderful world. I have seen many lovely flowers, but those zinnias that summer were as gorgeous as any I have ever seen. To this day, zinnias are one of my favorite flowers!

Our boys are grown now. They have helped their children, and grandchildren, plant and tend many beds of flowers. I hope they have forgiven me and forgotten this day of shame in my life, the day God taught me the lesson of the flower seeds. + + +