It is engraved on many tombstones, inscribed in many cards, expressed in many obituaries: He died too soon. She was taken before her time.
Of all the mysteries in this universe, few are more perplexing than the mystery of God’s sovereignty over life and death. Why do some live to so advanced an age while others barely live at all? Why are some who display such promise taken before they can deploy their gifts? Why does God call some early to heaven who surely could have done so much good on earth? Why God, we ask? Why?
I’m quite sure that June is the best of the year here in Southern Ontario. The spring rains have given way to spring sun. The perennials that laid dormant through the long winter have burst out of the warming ground and the annuals that awaited the final frost have now been planted and begun to thrive. Yet because we have not yet reached the summer’s full heat, the grass is still unwithered and the lawns unscorched. The world is resplendent with every hue of green, every shade of red, yellow, and blue.
No one in this neighborhood gives more attention to her garden than Aileen. Her garden is her studio, her canvas, her gallery. She has designed it purposefully and tends to it carefully.
Some of the flowers in her garden sprang up when there was still snow on the ground. They bloomed quickly and beautifully, a foretaste of warmer days to come. And then they faded and were gone for another year. Some of the flowers waited until there was a long succession of warm afternoons before they began to stir and to push their shoots above the ground. And some of the flowers have yet to be seen as they await even warmer days, perhaps late in the summer or even early in the autumn. When the rest of the plants have already waned, these will provide a final splash of color before the snows return.
Whether these flowers bloom early or late, whether their blossoms last for a few days or for the whole summer, they each have their purpose, for they have each been planted by the hand of an expert gardener. This is true even of the ones that make only the earliest or only the briefest appearance. Their beauty is no less beautiful because of its brevity. Their role is no less important because they are the first to fade. In fact, we treasure those flowers all the more, for we know that our enjoyment will be short-lived.
The most beautiful gardens are the ones that are planned with the greatest skill and tended with the greatest care. And if we should give such attention and commit so much love to something as simple as a garden, shouldn’t we trust God to give even greater attention and even greater care to people crafted by his hand and made in his image? Shouldn’t we trust him to number the length of their days? Shouldn’t we trust him to know whether their purpose is to bloom for days or for decades? Shouldn’t we trust him to know how and when each will best display divine beauty?
The early flowers in our garden are every bit as beautiful as the late flowers, the ones that bloom for a day as wondrous as the ones that bloom for a summer. They are every bit as precious in our eyes, and surely in God’s as well. And so, too, the human beings that appear to die too soon or who seem to be taken before their time. These too can only have been planned to perfection by the mind of God. These, too, can only have fulfilled the purpose he assigned to them. These too, are precious in his sight.