‘The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.’ (Isaiah 35.1-2)
I know, you’re wondering why the prompt is ‘rose’ but the passage refers instead to a crocus. On a Jesse Tree, the Rose of Sharon symbolizes the prophets and the promises God made through them. Nowadays, a number of plants have this name: the bright buttercup yellow Hypericum calcynum; two types of trumpet shaped Hibiscus; as well as various Irises, Malus, and Peonies. But it’s less clear exactly what plant the Rose of Sharon in the Bible actually was. Scholars have suggested from the coastal lily, the Madonna lily, the Narcissus, a tulip, to a specific or just general term for crocus.
Does it matter? Probably not. The point is not the genus of the plant but the blooming.
I love spotting the first green sharp shoots of bulbs coming out of the ground, how the garden transforms from the bare bones of winter to fully dressed as spring progresses. I actually feel excited when I see those initial blooms defying the cold, hinting of the softening of the earth and glories to come. Those little defiant splashes of purple and gold are nature’s paint splodges of hope.
Sometimes our lives, or the lives of those we love, can seem like a wilderness, parched and hard. I look at my father and the decimation of his dementia and all I see is winter.
It’s so difficult but I have to hold onto a bigger picture, a more accurate perspective, the one that crocus blooms point to. Winter will pass and spring will come again. For my dad, that probably isn’t on this earth. But that promise from Isaiah tells me that he will bloom and rejoice again, that he will see the glory and splendour of our God.
So I will hold onto the promise in the verses that follow too:
‘Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come…
he will come to save you.’
And I will remember that the resurrection of spring is never far away.