The Rose of Integrity

Otok Gospa od Skrpjela Island, Montenegro, May 2021

A tiny garden grows on a tiny island behind a tiny wall in a churchyard. Etched into the canvas of green are bean plants and weeds.
The garden’s containment reminds me of a heart enclosed in a human body, a tiny island in its sea of humanness. Apart from the similitude of man, each heartbeat responds to its Maker differently. We are advised to “guard” our hearts, for out of the heart comes both good and bad treasure, deeds proiferating profit or hazarding harm; and eventually, issuing forth pleasurable words or words that cause pain through an “unruly” tongue.

O Christ I pray you will safeguard my heart and teach me to keep a watch over its good treasure, and its acts of beneficence. Keep a tight, and ever tighter, bridle over my tongue.

In this same tiny garden on a tiny island behind a tiny stone wall in the churchyard, a minuscule spot of red illuminates a shadowy edge of the wall. It alone reigns among the bean plants and weeds. It is a rose I shall call the “Rose of Integrity.” I am surprised, and privileged, to catch it blooming in its hour of perfection!

Good men’s hearts are like a good harvest from the only-just-beginning growth of beans in the cultivated part of the tiny garden. These are ominously surrounded by weeds, like the evil in a man’s heart. An unseen gardener has fortuitously placed an earth border between the good green leaves and choking green weeds.

But the rose! The magnificent, pleasure-producing rose, alight with color and promise and cheer grows lovely beside the darkened wall! The rose bespeaks the heart of the man of integrity! This heart is cultivated, watered, and pruned on every Word of God. This is the heart that God seeks! This is the heart that brings forth good and life-giving treasure, and fruit that blooms into eternity! It surprises one with its discovery and It speaks blessing into life.

O Christ I pray Your grace alone will establish my heart as a rose of integrity in Your great Garden. I pray that Your hand, Great Gardener, will protect my rosy heart from choking weeds and withering sun. Cultivate, water, and prune, yes, prune my heart for Your good purposes, that it’s brightness smiles for others and brings glory to You alone. And my little heart island will find purpose and peace under Your care. Amen.

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