Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Common Beauty, Uncommon Love

It is spring time and dandelions are everywhere. Have you ever thought about the difference between dandelions and potted plants? One is common; it grows at will, wild and un-tame. Very ordinary, and in its abundance very obscure. One is cultivated; it’s growth is precarious, needing time and attention. It grows through intention, needing specific care to be sustained. It is special, specially placed, and specially noticed. I am a dandelion girl, growing wherever I will, wild and un-tame. Thoroughly common.

A few years ago I noticed a set of dishes in a department store sporting pictures of various wild growing flowers, usually considered weeds. The dandelion was just one of four common flowers that graced the front of that particular china pattern. I loved it. I loved that an expensive set of porcelain captured the loveliness of the ordinary, elevating it to the ranks of beautiful, as these un-common dishes sat beside the more common stacks of rose painted plates. It gave me the courage to notice the beauty in what is often overlooked, simply because it is so abundant.

Obviously Someone is cultivating the common. I believe it is God. God loves dandelions, and there was a time when we did too. I remember as a girl making numerous bracelets, necklaces and crowns out of the yellow blooms, stringing each flexible green stem through the next until there was a chain. I remember the fascination and joy of watching the white dandelion seeds being lifted by the wind as I blew upon their fuzzy heads. In that innocence of youth, dandelions were still flowers, not yet weeds, and still an object of beauty instead of an aggravating nuisance. Whatever happened to our uncommon love for common beauty?

I think it is because our culture has trained us to think that only unordinary things are worthy of notice, that life at its heart is a competition for VIP status. Only the rare and very important things and people matter. What is common is undesirable, unnoticed, unworthy. Understated is uninteresting. Our culture tells us that if we want to be successful, marketable, and have value we must be over-the-top, bigger and better than everyone else. Survival means setting ourselves apart. Even if it hurts others around us, grabbing that status is everything. And once we are deemed worthy of attention, we have to work even harder to stay that way. In the college scene it means belonging to the best organizations, making the best grades, establishing the best reputation, enjoying all the right contacts, gaining the most achievements, growing the best resume. And ordinary is just not good enough. Only outstanding will do. You future happiness and well-being depends on it. Sound exhausting?

As a teenager and young adult, I used to see people (namely myself) in those same terms, believing that the category of beautiful applied to pageant winners, the “in” crowd, and people with power and prestige. Beauty, or worth, I felt, was only reserved for those who were “special.” So I tried my hardest to be as special as I could, making the best grades I could, being as acceptable as I could, pleasing the most people I could, gaining all the success I could. And when I couldn’t live up to those standards, my world came apart. The Lord patiently put me back together again. Somehow I learned along the way that I had to make peace with my ordinariness. Then I began to discover God’s grace that creates and loves the ordinary, naming and claming that which the world does not. His purposes for such ordinary things surely outshine worldly efforts at greatness. And just like we cannot stop the dandelions from filling our yards, neither can the world’s demands for extraordinary deny the power of an ordinary life lived through simple trust in the Lord.

I love these words from scripture: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:27-31). It is almost as if I can hear God saying, “Have you looked at any dandelions lately? Did you ever think about why they grow so abundantly when you do absolutely nothing to make them do that, when you even try to inhibit their growth? Don’t you think if I can make dandelions grow so beautifully, I can take care of you too? So why do you think your well-being depends on effort you cannot possibly give? Stop trying to do My job! Instead, why don’t you just try to be the blessing I created you to be? So you are a dandelion in the great garden of life. I made so many because I love them so much. You are so beautiful to Me; just be what I made you to be!”

Don’t get me wrong. Potted plants are nice, but at the end of the day, they too are just plants, no better or worse than the ordinary dandelion. God creates each bloom with such exquisite detail and care, tending to the needs of each flower’s life with sustenance we can only guess at. Surely if God cares enough to give life to dandelions He also cares about us as well. And even in our ordinariness we can trust Him to have a plan and purpose that not only sustains us with mercy, but reveals His glory to those all around.

This is me trusting,


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