Location: Empire State Building, the 15th floor
I find it rather fascinating that the students that I work with in NYC established tonight a tradition comparable to a tradition that I left behind in California. This evening the girls I work with held what they called the Tulip Ceremony, honoring those who have been nominated for student leadership positions for the following year.
And so tonight I am reminded of a story that I posted on facebook nearly two years ago. But when I posted that story, the thought had not yet crossed my mind that maybe the stranger in the story was actually an angel. I can't say that I'm 100% sure that he was; however, I'm inclined to believe that it was an angel that I crossed paths with that day.
However, I'll let you decide.
The Day I Got My Rose:
My final Saturday at CBU I was out for a run, and on my way back to campus there was this man standing on the side of the sidewalk, evidently waiting for me. As I neared him, he extended out in front of me a single, wrapped, red rose. I turned down my headphones and stopped running to see what the rose was all about.
“This is for you. I want you to have it.” He placed the rose in my right hand and sealed his gift with the words, “God Bless.” To be honest, I was rather dumbfounded, yet deeply moved by his gesture. I mean, I’ve been running for years now, and never before has anyone tried to give me a rose while I’ve been out for a jog.
And for me, a rose isn’t just a rose. So I ask, “Did God lay this on your heart to give to me?”
And he replies, “I saw you running. And I thought you were beautiful, so I went and got it for you. I just wanted you to have it.” There was a sincere gentleness in his presence and in his words; there was nothing shady about him.
On the verge of tears, I tell him, “Thank you. It really means a lot to me. It really does.”
“Well, have a good day. God Bless.” He didn’t try to prolong the conversation or try to get my phone number; it was clear, the rose was not an attempt to hit on me. He turned one way and started on his way, and I turned the other way, looking down at the rose. And I started to weep.
And the tears continued to roll gently down my face as I jogged the rest of the way back to campus holding the red rose in my right hand.
Because for me, a rose isn’t just a rose. It is so much more.
You see, four years ago my RAs started this tradition called the Rose Ceremony - inspired by The Bachelor - to welcome the incoming RA staff. Dressed up, both staffs meet at the gazebo in the James Courtyard for the ceremony. There is an air of excitement as each incoming RA is called forward to accept a rose from a current RA, repeat a set of vows, and is then pronounced Miss 1D, 3B or whatever hall it is that they will be taking over the following year.
In that moment, when they receive their rose, there is great anticipation of what lies ahead. And although it there is much unknown and much uncertainty, there is also much confidence that God has great and beautiful things in store.
So for me, a rose isn’t just a rose. Receiving that rose on that Saturday was one of the most intimate, and personal encounters I have ever had with God. It wasn’t about getting a rose from some guy, but rather it was about God extending his love and care for me in a real and tangible way, and assuring me that there are great things to come.
Throughout my faith journey there have been times that I have questioned this so called “personal” relationship with God. Not that I have ever doubted what Jesus did on the cross for me, but rather there have been times where my relationship with God has felt rather impersonal. But let this story be a testimony – the God of the universe loves you and cares about you – deeply and intimately.