Considering the Lilies
Considering the Lilies
We made a quick visit to our Vermont cabin this week. The irresistible draw was double: (1) to visit with our daughter, her husband, and their adorable two and a half year old, Alanna; and (2) to drink in the colors of the blooming trumpet lilies in the whiskey barrel by the steps to the cabin's porch. We had been to Chelsea-Corinth a week earlier. I counted one hundred lily buds. I just had to see for myself the blossomed buds.
Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, invites us to "consider the lilies how they grow" by way of encouraging our souls to grasp the goodness of God's providence. The lilies don't punch a time clock or need to make purchases at the haberdashery, yet God clothes them more splendidly than King Solomon decked out in his finery. Stop worrying, in other words, about the fundamental needs of this mortal life; God will take care of you... like God does the flowers and the birds.
For years the reference to Solomon baffled me. Kings wear royal purple. Red carpets are rolled out for them to walk on. Yet the only lilies with which I was acquainted were those that adorned the altar on an Easter morning; and they are whiter than the winter snow. I mean, Jesus should have said that the lilies of the field were more glorious than the wings of Gabriel. Of course, as in every other instance where I have questioned the accuracy of the Bible, the error turned out to be mine. Actually, it would be truer to say, the ignorance was mine.
Because, as any Bible dictionary could have enlightened me had I the good sense to look it up, wild lilies grow in the brightest of colors. Think day lilies, the yellows and oranges which fill the gardens in our neighborhood this season of the year. Better yet, take a look at the lilies in our Vermont whiskey barrel. We started with three plants with, maybe, twenty flowers. We've added no plant food and done little more over the years than "ooh" and "aah" at the blossoms. Yet Bill Gates in all his riches couldn't buy a prettier bouquet than the red trumpet lilies at our doorstep.
The best things in life are free. We did pay for the original plants; but the amazing fecundity of God's creation has wonderfully blindsided us with a blessing we had never imagined. Come to think of it, there must be a few hundred other serendipities I should also celebrate. We ask for bread and God often gives us cake. We pray for help to get through the day and God delivers us to tomorrow like champions. One couple I know yearned and yearned for children, finally adopted a little boy, and, before you could say Mother Hubbard, there were three more boys of their own occupying their home. There is an incalculable generosity to God's grace, and, like red trumpet lilies in the whiskey barrel, God overflows our expectations.
In the company of this overwhelming providence one is inclined to do several things. Mostly, take it for granted. And with the largesse in hand, assume it is an entitlement. Humbler folk, having perhaps tasted sourer times, clutch the beneficence with fear that it will soon disappear. Those who greet it best are those who are, or who have recaptured the simplicity of, children. The red trumpet lilies beg for someone to delight in them, without holding them so hard as to crush them.
I think I have found just the person to do that.
Or, as I once read in a famous letter, "O, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" The visit to the cabin in Vermont turns out to have been a spiritual pilgrimage.