It was not my best evening.
It was one of those gala events that include a reception and dinner. I knew exactly one person, maybe two if I was hard pressed. The person I knew was going to receive an award, and that plus my self-proclamation that it is good to occasionally participate in things that make me uncomfortable were the reasons I was there. Mingling with strangers does not come naturally to me.
“You probably did better than you think,” a friend commented afterward.
Then I explained that I never even found the person I knew to say congratulations. As I detailed the ups and downs of the evening’s conversation (and lack thereof), my friend finally conceded that in this case I was probably right. It was not my best evening.
Eventually the dinner ended and I was relieved to step out into an April snow storm. The snow was just my first surprise. Partway across the deserted parking lot I was greeted with a scattering of yellow and white roses, crystalizing in the snow. I don’t know how they got there – perhaps someone’s date night had gone even worse than mine – but I was pretty sure they were for me. I scooped up a couple, expecting them to immediately wilt from being frozen. To my surprise, they didn’t seem damaged at all.
I carried the roses home and put them in a vase, and every time I look at them I am reminded of the things I learned this evening.
First, there are the direct consequences. I didn’t make as much of a conversational effort as I could have, and my evening was therefore more stilted than it needed to be. I could have tried harder and still not had the best evening, but the fact remains that I could have tried harder.
Second, I need to learn from my experiences. I already know that the more receptions and dinners I attend, the more natural they will feel and the easier they will become. “You will do better next time,” my friend encouraged me.
Even more important than either of these first two lessons, however, I need to know that when things feel rough, and when I didn’t do as good as I should have, that the people I love most still love me. They can laugh with me. They can counsel me. But most of all, they can love me.
This was just an evening reception, but these lessons are true for far more serious things as well. So many times in life our actions (or inactions) have consequences, and we need to learn from those experiences. We need to know that we can do better next time, but that even if we try harder next time, we still might fail. Love, however, never fails.
Indeed love is the very heart of the Christian family tree. “I am the vine and you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing” Jesus told his followers. We can do nothing without God. Which also means, we can do nothing without love. After all, God is love. Jesus could have said, “I, Love, am the vine.”
Because of Jesus, we don’t have to abide in condemnation. We don’t even have to abide in all our consequences. We can abide in His Love. We can try harder and make more mistakes and He will still love us. Just as we forgive the mistakes of those we love, so God’s love covers over our mistakes. God’s love is at the center of our global family.
Sometimes we can have a rough evening, and instead of more discouragement, Our Father will send us His love. It could be a phone call from a friend, a note from a family member, or a pair of roses in the snow. Through it all, we can know that we are infinitely cared for and loved.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.