A Symbol of God’s Kindness

“Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made. . . . “  Romans 1:20

A month or so after we arrived in Japan in 2002 I was surprised by some of the most beautiful flowers I’d ever seen. There were literally waves of them, bright red, just suddenly appearing in so many places—beside train tracks, along roads and rivers, beside rice paddies, and near temples and in cemeteries.

I learned that these red, red flowers, just suddenly revealing themselves, were manjushage or higanbana (after higan, the equinox, and hana, flower).Their botanical name is Lycoris radiata, but in American English, at least, we call them simply “red spider lilies.”

Over the years, as I’ve thought both about the flowers and the verse from the letter to the Roman Christians above, I’ve come to believe that these red spider lilies are a symbol of God’s great kindness to us all, and a particular invitation to Japanese people to know him.

First, blooming just when there’s a touch of coolness in the air in the fall, the flowers symbolize to me mercy in a rest from the oppressive heat of Japan’s summer.

Second, most of the time, the flowers are hidden away. They’re NOT there. Then, all of a sudden, they’re THERE!

This seems like a good picture of God working, hidden, in ways we’re not aware of, and then, all of a sudden, revealing results of what he’s been doing in our lives or in the lives of others.

Third, it’s been said that red spider lilies on their own are poisonous. But I’ve heard also the starchy roots can be made into a medicine to help heal people. And, I’ve also heard that when they’re properly prepared, the roots can sustain life if there isn’t enough “regular” food for people to eat.

I remember sometimes God shows his mercy–and his power–working even beyond what can be harmful or is evil. And yet, he has the most unbelievable good planned for us all.

Finally, the amazing red color of the flowers reminds me of the blood of Jesus.

We Christians understand, of course, that Jesus’ life, given voluntarily to take the punishment justice would rightly require of each of us, is the supreme sacrifice and the most amazing picture of God loving us. We who should be punished are instead welcomed by this God—a righteous judge who loves us so much he himself pays what we owe. Amazing!

I was so touched by manjushage those years ago that I planted some at the ministry center where we were serving at that time. I’m still touched when I see them, blooming as they are just now.

I hope that when people see those red spidery flowers, they’ll be reminded, too, of God’s amazing and unbelievable kindness—and that God’s kindness is also for each of them.

And maybe when you read and see this now, you’ll be reminded that God’s kindness is for each of you, too!

5 thoughts on “A Symbol of God’s Kindness

  1. I love that you’re blogging, John! 🙂

    Is there any way you can set up a subscription so we can know when you put up a new post? That would be fabulous – it would allow your friends and family to get an email notice when there’s a new post without having to monkey with RSS. 🙂


  2. A true missionary reflection on God’s wonder! Keep up the good work and we are all here to support your great call!

    In Christ,
    ETZ [ Elaine, Terence and Zoe ]

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