This month my friend Helena Weltz shares a personal story. We met as young, single teachers at a girls’ secondary school in Kenya. Later she moved to a remote desert location where she taught children and adults to read and write. She also held sewing classes for mothers so their children would have clothes to wear in school. Now living in Canada, Helena enjoys crafts, sewing, knitting and writing. Always ready to help and encourage others, she and her husband lead a grief support group. This story is one of many lessons she learned in Africa.
It was dark as we walked along the path on our compound. No street lights or yard lights illuminated the footpath, but the starry sky was bright with a nearly full moon. My co-worker, Bertha, experienced and knowledgeable in many aspects of the tropics, had brought her flashlight along with a camera.
Earlier that day Bertha had noticed that the night-blooming shrub, not far from our house, had buds on it; one bud looked ready to come into full bloom. I am not sure whether it was a moon flower plant or an angel’s trumpet. No one seemed to be certain of its name. Now we were on our way to view beauty in the darkness. Bertha shone the bright flashlight in the direction of the plant. Yes, there was the flower – white, large and fragrant. The bloom was perhaps four or five inches across. We admired its silent, inconspicuous beauty.
The next morning as I walked to class, I stepped over to take another look at this plant. The only sign that there had indeed been a beautiful blossom was a small withered, closed vestige of a flower. It was hard to comprehend that it had been gorgeous and appealing just hours earlier.
I wondered if this plant had wasted its fragrance and its beauty. Quite likely Bertha and I had been the only ones to witness this one-time occurrence of its blossoming. Any of its flowers bloomed only at night and only one night. I began to think that this night-blossoming plant in its quiet, unassuming manner had a lesson to teach us:
First, our God is a God of beauty. Even if none of us had witnessed this plant in full bloom. God, who sees all things and has created the flowers of the field, must surely have enjoyed this delightful sight, His own creation.
Second, God has given us gifts to develop, to stretch and to unfold. My giftedness may not be sensational or spectacular, but just as God asked Moses to use his less than eloquent manner of speaking, he did great things with what God had given to him. I believe God expects me to use my gifts to the best of my ability to serve Him. The wise man, Solomon recorded, whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; (Eccl. 9:10)
We used to sing a little song in Sunday school that encouraged us to do our best even if it is in the darkness:
Jesus bids us shine, with a clear, pure light.
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness we must shine,
You in your small corner and I in mine.