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empty Posted November 2001
Robin Michelle Caldwell
Robin M. Caldwell
Artificial Flowers
Robin M. Caldwell
Cleveland, Ohio

    One night, I stood outside my friend Dorinda’s apartment building chatting with her about a lot of silly stuff.  As we laughed and enjoyed the warmth of our friendship, a car pulled up.  Like most urban dwellers, our defenses raised immediately. 

Flower    A young woman emerged and said, “Lord, forgive me…  My kids are in the car asleep.  My car won’t make it.  Could you help?”

    We determined from her babblings that she needed motor oil and gasoline for a drive clear across the city.  She asked for four dollars.  Tentatively, yet, with compassion we helped her and she appeared grateful.

    As she pulled off we noticed a male in the driver’s seat.  He had been slumped down.  He couldn’t even make eye contact with us and we knew why not.

    We were filled with righteous indignation.  This male had allowed a woman “to beg bread” on his behalf.  Worst, she had complied.

    No, we didn’t know the whole story, but we’re old school women.   Where we come from men would hustle to protect and provide for a woman.  His dignity would never come at the expense of hers.

    ‘What have we come to?’ I asked my friend.  Women are living in desperation in its finest hour. 

“And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, "We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel; Only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach.” 
Isaiah 4: 1 NKJV

    Gone are the days of "I can do bad by myself." Now, we’re living in a state of " I can do bad with you; because of you; and just to be with you.”

    Pastor Lois, my minister’s wife, led a bible study on love in the new millennium.  She related one story of a woman who was upset over a man she had had sex with who’d left her.  When Pastor Lois asked what she had received from the experience, the woman said, “a silk rose” from a local grocery store.  That wasn’t the answer she expected.

    This woman’s worth and value to this man and herself was symbolized in a fake rose…an artificial flower.  Evidently, she didn’t rate the real thing in love or in a token.

Can you imagine the tears she had shed over this male?  
Can you imagine her pain?

    Unfortunately, the anguish she felt was not merely tied to the male who left; it is tied to a decision that was made long before he entered her life. At some pivotal moment, she decided she wasn’t worth more than an artificial flower. 

    It wasn’t a conscious decision.  In one compromising situation which led to a series of situations, she began the process of deciding her own worth and value.  Certainly the messages she received from her surroundings validated each choice.  Something someone said or did planted the seeds of her artificial flowers.

    And, her decision penetrated the core of her soul dictating her actions.  That decision reached outward to grab hold of any opportunity to affirm itself.  It beckoned and invited every form of mistreatment to enjoin with this woman.

    Before their deaths, my grandfather shared a wonderful story about the early days of his marriage to my grandmother.  He was a mailman who logged many miles walking his route every day and several miles to work.  He gave her the money he saved on gasoline and bus fare to feed their family.  On one occasion, they were downtown paying bills and stopped to look into a store window at a pair of shoes.  My grandmother asked could she try them on and he obliged.  However, this was the 1940s and white salesclerks weren’t too happy about serving blacks—even in the North.  Filled with hurt and anger, my grandfather sacrificed what little money he had left to show the bigoted salesman that my grandmother was worthy of owning those shoes.  He bought them for her on the spot.

    My grandfather taught me early on to expect only the best treatment from men.  He said, “If a man asks you for so much as a dime for a phone call cut him loose.”  And, quite literally, I did.  (My girls dubbed me, ‘Miss Zero Tolerance.’)  My grandfather believed a man should not ask a woman for a thing.

    While there is nothing biblical in his logic, I can appreciate the general command to be respected and cherished as a woman.  I maintain to this day that I will marry the man who loves me as much as my grandfather loved my grandmother.  He gave and she received the “real thing.”

    Nothing in our society validates “the real thing.”  Movies, music, and other forms of popular culture extol the virtues of a fabricated love—make believe.  Our icons and celebrities give us few examples of a pure and lasting love.  Even some in ministry have served up examples of temporal love with their multiple marriages and divorces.

    In the meantime, there are younger women dancing the strip clubs for the artificial flowers of money and applause.  It is nothing to hear a woman speak freely of her husband or lover who cheats or abuses her, as if to boast: “He loves me!”  On Sunday mornings, I see the swollen bellies and teary eyes of some other artificial flower recipients.

    (Sadly, there are brothers who receive fake flowers every time they pursue women who demean their worth and value as men.  Right now, there is some man being damaged by a woman who is taking his money or treating him bad. This is not a one-sided issue.)

The “beauty” of artificial flowers is that they come in a variety of breeds.  It isn’t always easy to recognize them.  It boils down to the things we will do to hear, “I love you!”  Below are the basics:

  • Believing that material possessions purchased by yourself or accepted as gifts measure your true worth and value.
  • Settling for anything less than God’s best and making excuses for those choices.  “So what, he’s married but he loves me.”
  • Abuse and mistreatment in all forms.

T. D. Jakes writes in the fifth chapter of Daddy Loves His Girls:

“I particularly want you to associate men with good treatment. Therefore, when you encounter one who doesn’t treat you well, it will be so unfamiliar that you will find it repulsive.”

    Here is a godly man telling you to value yourself and know your true worth in God. The foundation for his plea is biblical and rooted in Christ.

    The woman at the well must have compromised many times over to have at least five husbands. She accepted the artificial flowers of living with a man who didn’t think her worthy of marriage. Jesus arrived just in time to spare her of new regrets and more fake flowers.

“Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” 
John 4:16-19 NKJV

   In truth, Jesus arrived in the nick of time for us all.  His Word and ministry have healed us on many levels.  But, there’s still work to be completed.

    Artificial flowers can die or be trashed on the day we realize that Christ died for our feelings of unworthiness.  Our Lord longs to deliver dozens of long-stemmed roses to you.  He desires to bless you with His best.  After all, He is the Lily of the Valley, the bright and Morning Star, and the Rose of Sharon.  There is nothing fake about His flowers.  And, His flowers will never die or pass away.

Robin Caldwell is the founder of Palace Ministries, a Christian organization designed to encourage women of all ages to accept the Word of God as the foundation of their worth and value. She holds a Master's degree in Communication from Ohio University. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in a variety of weekly newspapers and online nationwide. Ms. Caldwell resides in Cleveland, Ohio where she attends the Mega Church pastored by Bishop Luther J. Blackwell, Jr.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and are used by permission.

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