The Lost One
by John C. Westervelt
In years gone by, I planted multicolored impatiens in a shaded flower bed across the front of my house, strawberry colored periwinkles in a square bed in the middle of the patio, and gold and purple zinnias in full sun across the back of my lot. Between the patio and the wrap around drive were fifteen Hybrid Tea roses. You would have recognized the red, pink, and cream, both solid and blended, blossoms.
Stepping through my seventh decade, I began scaling back my flowers for lower maintenance. The plot for zinnias was reclaimed by Bermuda grass. Hybrid Tea roses were replaced with Earth-Kind Knock Out roses that don’t need spraying for black spot. And finally, I began hiring the neighborhood children to plant my flowers.
On a Tuesday after the Tulsa schools were out, I called my neighbor and discovered that the children were at camp for a week. Time was running out, so I called a phone number in a classified ad.
The gardener could come at eleven, so I went to Stringer Brothers where flats of forty-eight flowers could be mixed or matched. I selected sixteen periwinkles and eighty impatiens to fill two flats.
The gardener and a helper planted sixteen periwinkles in the patio bed. After preparing the soil in the front bed, they laid two rows of impatiens on the ground. They scooped a hole in the loose soil with their fingers and planted a flower until all eighty were in place.
Early Thursday morning, an inch of rain soaked the flower beds. After lunch, I checked the flowers and found two impatiens, roots and all, lying on the ground still seeking nourishment from the damp cube of soil that had surrounded the roots in the flat.
I thought, “In God’s design, my oak tree drops thousands of acorns. Only a few become a tree. Many fill the bellies of young squirrels that scamper after one another under my tree. So I should be able to take my loss of two flowers out of eighty and feel good about it.”
As I studied the two prone flowers struggling for life, my empathy sent me to the garage for my garden trowel and planting stool. Back in the ground, the leaves of the two scraggly plants were not as crisp as those of the other seventy-eight. Nestled in the moist earth, the nearly lost ones have a chance to live.
I was reminded of Jesus telling about the man who left his ninety-nine sheep in the open country to search for the lost one. Jesus’ story, in turn, made me think about Asbury’s outreach to 500 visitors each Sunday. One of these might be lost and hearing about Jesus for the first time. Asbury’s facilities and programs reach out to this lost one. Jesus affirms Asbury’s mission in Luke 15:7 – “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
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