“It was a cold, rainy Sunday evening in April: the kind of night that would depress anyone.” So begins an inspiring story by theologian Carol Noren.
The bad weather had ruined people’s plans for the weekend, and another week of work would begin the next morning. I was living hundreds of miles from family and friends. My budget wouldn’t allow too many long-distance calls, and there wasn’t anything good on TV. I decided to go to the supermarket to pick up a half gallon of milk and perhaps buy a single, long-stemmed rose to brighten the apartment and my mood. Sunday night was the best time to do this. That’s when the produce manager would remove any flowers past their prime from the refrigerator case and place them in a bucket of water on the counter, and mark them down to just 25 cents each.
I worked my way carefully through that bucket that night, hoping to find the best one of the lot. The department manager saw me, hurried over to the counter and asked, “Are you planning to buy some flowers?” When I said yes, the manager said, “How many do you plan to buy?” On impulse, I said, “Two,” even though that was double what I’d intended to spend.
“That’d be fifty cents, wouldn’t it,” she said as she looked around. “I tell you what: how would you like all the flowers for fifty cents?”
“No, I’m not. We’re getting a big shipment of fresh flowers tomorrow morning, and I have to throw away anything here that isn’t sold by midnight. If you take ’em, it’ll save me a trip to the dumpster. Fifty cents; what do you say?”
I didn’t know what to say. I left that store with more than six dozen roses, almost as many carnations; daffodils, mums, other varieties—not just what was in the close-out bucket, but in a half-dozen other pails hidden beneath the counter: blossoms that looked far too fresh and beautiful to be clearance priced.
When I got home, I had flowers in every room. I brought a bouquet to the elderly couple next door, shared them with co-workers the following day. I dried some to make potpourri … and I was bursting to tell everybody of my extraordinary experience. I went out to buy one rose to cheer myself up. I returned with more flowers than I could count.
I love Noren’s story because I, too, am so often surprised by abundance. To tell you the truth, I am often afraid of it. A good Scandinavian pinchpenny boy raised by depression-era parents on the hardscrabble plains of South Dakota, I know how to scrimp and make do. But flood me with abundance and I get nervous, embarrassed.
I think if I had been kneeling before that flower bucket, looking for my one, two-bit rose and the manager had offered me a torrent of flowers for fifty cents, I would have blushed. “Oh, no, thank you,” I might well have said, “I—I just need one.” Instead of being festooned with flowers, my apartment might have been bare. The elderly couple next door might have gone without, as would all of my co-workers on Monday morning. All those flowers might have been consigned to the dumpster. And I might not, like Noren, have gone on to tell everybody of my extraordinary experience.
Don’t fight this wild, extravagant God of ours. Welcome abundance today.