To Surprise Us At the Last Day

The world was still new, the earth was still young, humanity was still barely east of Eden. And deep in virgin forests, unseen by human eye, untrod by human foot, a gentle fern was summoned forth from the soil. Its fronds were perfectly symmetrical, its leaves were vibrant green, it was uniquely patterned with the most delicate of veins.

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When the sun broke through the trees above, it illumined the fern with beams of gold. When the dews fell in the quiet of night, they topped it with crowns of silver. When the winds blew upon it, it fluttered and danced with joy. It was but a little fern, but it was the delight of its Maker.

But a day came when the thunders rolled and the rocks split. A day came when the earth quaked and the mountains heaved. A day came when the skies above and the deeps beneath broke open in mighty torrents and floods. That little fern succumbed to the waves and was buried and compressed, encased in clay. Like all humans and like all animals, it perished.

Yet the clay that encased that fern also protected it. As the clay dried and hardened, it preserved the shape, the lines, and even the gentle traces of the veins. A living work of art gave way to a petrified one.

And then it rested. It rested through the centuries as nations rose and fell. It rested through the millennia as kingdoms waxed and waned. It rested in hardened rock.

But then, at last, a day came when a young man drew near—a young man who was searching for secrets hidden in nature. Deep in a fissure he gently withdrew a single stone and carried it up into the bright light of the sun. And as he gazed at that stone he marveled to see, as if drawn with the finest of pencils, the tracings of stems and leaves, of fibers and veins. He rejoiced in the fossil that told of the existence of that fern, that bore its memory, that testified that it had never been forgotten by its Maker.

And as I ponder that petrified fern—hidden through the ages to be revealed at last, forgotten through the ages to be a source of wonder at last—I find myself considering that perhaps God has kept secret from our eyes the salvation of some of his people.

Perhaps he called them to himself after we lost track of them—we assumed their hardened rebellion against Christ continued indefinitely, while only God knows it eventually gave way to the sweetest submission. Perhaps he allowed some to commit terrible deeds toward the end—we were certain they had turned away, but God never loosened his grip on them. Perhaps he called them to himself at their final gasp—we were certain they had gone to judgment, but in the very last moment God brought them safely to glory.

And so I wonder. As I consider that petrified fern I wonder what marvelous secrets God has stored away, what wonderful surprises he has kept hidden from our eyes, what beautiful blessings he has left undisclosed in our day so he can reveal them in that last and wonderful day—so he can reveal them to the delight of our hearts and the praise of his name.


(Inspired by a poem I discovered in an old anthology.)