The Closed Door
Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
A Common Wild Flower
Musing on Life
We tendered ashore in Monte Carlo. Once on land, I pondered for a
minute to get my bearings. Having spotted a taxi nearby, I decided the
best way was to have him take us to the Oceanographic Museum where a
tram tour around the city would be available.
Instead, the cab driver pointed to a flight of stairs about 75 feet away
and gave us instructions to find the elevator which could take us straight
to the Oceanographic Museum at the top of the rocks.
Mary and I followed his instructions and found signs at the top of the
stairs pointing to “Palais Musee.” We took the meandering walkway that
ran along a very clean and quiet road. To the right, it is a vertical cliff of
about 70 feet up with all kinds of vibrant plants, flowers, and trees that
lure one’s sight to the top. I was at once transported to an Alice-in-
Wonderland-like realm of great delight as our eyes feasted on those
beautiful plants that squeezed themselves out of the rocky cliff.
I wouldn’t have been as awestruck had those plants been manicured in a
garden – and we did see many beautiful gardens later on as we tram-
toured the city of Monte Carlo. But these plants here just eked out their
own existence from the rocks, so it seemed.
We moved slowly basking in the 75-degree sunshine, capturing as much
sights on video as I could.
When I leaned over the left edge of the walkway, I discovered another
vertical drop of about 80 feet down to a narrow strip of pebble beach
with the gentle Mediterranean waves lapping at the shore.
Overwhelmed with delight, I struggled to regain composure in view of
the variety of species of wild flowers and plants clinging and blooming on
this side of the lonely cliff going down and facing the ocean. What a
magical place this was! And Mary and I had it all to ourselves – there
was not another tourist around since most of them chose to take buses
to their desired destinations.
A little yellow flower caught my eyes.
Moving closer, I looked straight down leaning over the edge at this
pretty sight. With no admiring throngs, she grew valiantly right out of
the rock facing nothing but the open ocean, and cheerfully sending up
effervescent yellow blooms that gently swayed in a slightly spiced
There is something deeply satisfying when a man’s inner sanctum is
touched and his spirit moved by something that goes beyond natural
senses. Sure, my senses were touched by the scenic and tranquil
surroundings of this deserted paradisiacal corner of the Mediterranean
cliff side. But beyond the senses there is something deeper that
beseeches to be made known which only the still small voice of the Lord
Not wanting to venture a rushed interpretation, I cast one last glance
and carefully folded this experience into my memory and we moved on to
our intended destination….
We’ve now been home for about four weeks, and the memory of all those
interesting countries, principalities, and cities keeps flooding back like
the gentle Mediterranean waves lapping at the shore. We’ve seen the
sophistications of Barcelona, the elegance of Florence and Pisa, the glory
of Rome, the pomposity of Vatican, the silent agony of Pompeii, and the
scenic beauty of the Amalfi Coast…. But that little effervescent wild
yellow flower and her companions clinging to the lonely cliff cascading
down into the sea keep resurfacing back.
I am certain that the Lord has in store something sweet and precious to
impress me about this scene, it’s my lack of comprehension that worries
me. For now, I am content in knowing that life does emerge out of harsh
circumstances. Like the wild yellow flower and so many other vibrant
plants that squeezed themselves out of rocky cliffs, the Life of Christ
overcomes harsh environment without even a struggle. His life is the
only one that can go into death and come out triumphant.
It is interesting to note that true divine life does not put on a show just
on center stage. It doesn’t worry if it has a ministry or draws a captive
audience. A real ministry has nothing to do with degrees, spiritual gifts,
or size of a following. Real ministry comes spontaneously when the life
of Christ is allowed to grow unhindered.
Audience or not, applause or not, life trudges along quietly blooming
happily. Man on the other hand always looks for opportunity to get on
center stage where he can put on the biggest show. Natural man –
Christians included – will always respond to the loudest bang and
biggest firework. This type of hype easily creates a false impression of
“ministry” to the religiously zealous and ambitious. If allowed to
proceed on this path, life will soon be smothered as man-made programs
and productions grind out bigger successes and greater audiences.
I think we have a lot to learn from those unpretentious plants and wild
flowers on the lonely cliff sides. The only thing that helped them grow
and blossom on bare rocks is a root system anchored deep into the
boulder. Their harsh environment only served as agent to help the roots
grasp even deeper. Isn’t this what the Lord had in mind for His people
as written in 2 Kings 19:30, “And the surviving remnant of the house of
Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward”?
I can’t help but notice that fruit-bearing is the result of “taking root
downward” first which means seeking Him, relying on Him, and
surrendering to Him like the clay yielding itself to the Potter. Often
times, these experiences take the form of personal dealings with the
Lord in the inner chamber. Yet all too often, our tendency is to be
preoccupied with bearing fruit, i.e. getting a ministry and creating
glamour and impact while neglecting the primary lesson of anchoring
ourselves deep into our Solid Rock – Christ.
For many of us who have seen a vision of the Lord’s purpose and desire
for His Church, the overwhelming aspiration is to give Him what He is
after. Thus we burden ourselves with finding, or building, a church that
matches His heart’s desire; yet we are oblivious about His real burden
which is about dealing with us from within so that we can be transformed
into suitable building blocks for Him to build His house with.
The Lord is not at all concerned with what we can do for Him as much as
what He is going to do with us. In His time, what we can do for Him
shall be manifested as an outcome of what He has done with us and in
us. Fruit-bearing only comes as a result of “taking root downward.” Not
a moment sooner.
Some years ago, a brother in Christ declared that he received a “calling”
to serve the Lord full-time. Some time later, his mother-in-law came for
a visit and was appalled that her son-in-law, a self-declared “minister”,
had no audience. She chided him, “How can you be a minister yet have
no one to minister to?” The natural reaction would be to go on a fast-
track trying to gain an audience even more fervently.
This, sadly, is the prevailing religious concept among Christians.
The zealous and gifted Christians try to point out some impressive
credentials or experiences as basis for their calling for ministry. The so-
called “Lay Christians” on the other hand insist on having qualified
ministers to lead the flock - how else would the flock know how to
survive? This reminds me of the impressive gardens with statues and
fountains and perfectly manicured blooming plants as we tram-toured the
city of Monte Carlo. Everything is carefully positioned, choreographed,
organized, and tended to as in a controlled environment. Nothing is left
There all the perfuming plants bloom uniformly. Every plant of the same
species looks identical because all the spent, aged, and injured plants
are quickly removed from sight. Isn’t there a similarity to some of the
churches that we know of? The uniformity of appearance does make a
great impression about unity – until they learned that true Christian
unity is not in uniformity, but in variety.
Churches that are based on doctrinal, racial or cultural grounds and seek
to maintain outward unity are simply manicured gardens with uniform
appearances. The Lord on the other hand is quietly growing unknown
species of wild and unassuming “flowers” on sheer cliff faces in out of
the way places. There in those cliffs, there is no gardener to introduce
soil amendments and implement irrigation. There the question, "How
else would the flock survive?" has been given its ready answer.
Since Mary became ill last year, we were deeply touched by many dear
brothers and sisters from far and wide calling, visiting, emailing, and
praying for her. One day she received a call from an older brother in
South Carolina hitherto unknown and unheard of to us. When she
relayed the phone fellowship to me later, I could tell she had
encountered a gentle and mature saint in Christ.
Subsequently, both she and I received calls and letters from this dear old
brother. One day I shared my experience of him to the brethren in our
fellowship. I likened his prayer at the end of our phone fellowship as
“one talking to the Lord face to face, mouth to mouth….”
We both are truly blessed by the ministry of this dear old unknown (yet
well-known) brother’s deep well of life and sweet store of Christ to us.
As I sat pondering this hidden gem from South Carolina, my mind was
transported back to the lonely cliffs by the Mediterranean. I hear gentle
waves lapping at the shore….