February Blossoms and Unexpected Grace

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by Josh Hughes

When we moved into our house in the summer of 2011, Katie and I were puzzled by a tree that had been given prime placement in the very center of our back yard. The previous owner of our home took meticulous care of the landscaping, and it was clear that this tree wasn’t “born” in it’s current place of residence. It wasn’t an oak tree, or even my mortal enemy the pine tree. This tree was smaller, clearly distinct from the other trees on our property, and had almost certainly been placed in the best viewing location in the yard for a reason.

Not being a “tree guy” (I tend to be fairly indoorsy), I couldn’t understand why. There was nothing remarkable or beautiful about it. It wasn’t even particularly leafy save for a month or so in the early fall. This tree was remarkably unremarkable.

And then February came.

While all the other growth in our yard was waiting, almost hibernating in anticipation of the spring, this tree exploded. Its branches threw open hundreds and hundreds of beautiful flowers of pink and purple that looked like porcelain saucers. It was (and is) absolutely breathtaking. The tree is a saucer magnolia, and in our climate it blooms in early February, long before spring has awakened its friends in the other parts of the yard.

I expect my yard to flower and bloom in the spring. But as our brief winter draws to a close each year, the arrival of the flowers on this tree is always a blessed surprise, an unanticipated gift that catches me off guard.

I’m looking at this beautiful tree as I’m writing this, and I’m reminded of the way grace often does the same thing. Our God is always unfolding beauty in places we don’t expect it.

He’s revealing it to you when you overhear your elementary-aged daughter repenting to her sister of sin, and her sister offering free forgiveness - without your having to guide them.
He’s inviting you to savor it when you're witnessing to a friend and you pull a scripture passage stored in your memory that you didn’t know was there.
He’s lavishing it on you when a moment’s reflection reveals to you that you’re not struggling with that besetting sin the way you used to.
He’s beckoning you to enjoy it when a friend texts you out of nowhere to tell you they love you and are praying for you at just the right moment.

These moments are happening all over the place. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision, to put our heads down and get focused on our to-do lists. I’d like to fight that tendency in my own heart. I want to slow down, I want to listen better and pay closer attention to what God is doing so that when these moments of unfolding grace come, I don’t miss them. I hope you’ll join me.