I spent the entire month of April in the dirt, along the flower beds and the garden. I doubt I’ve ever washed my hands more, and yet tiny cracks in my fingers seem permanently darkened. I can’t wash it all away, and I don’t want to.
I’m engaged with this land. Every seed or root is in a give-and-take relationship with me. I plant and water and feed good compost, and the plant grows and gives me fruit or something beautiful to lay my eyes on. This kind of work feels like an original God intention for my life. This is part the poema he wrote about me, and now it’s coming to pass. I was always to be a flower lady and a woman with dirt in her skin.
The clematis climbs the arbor out our back door and touches vines with the grapes, but no will of mine has formed the tight buds waiting in suspense to unveil. Not once did I think of the bright yellow frills inside the camellias, but even still, the edges of hot pink widened until fists of petals opened like offerings in palms.
No plan of mine makes my life more beautiful than it already is. A few weeks ago at church, the teacher brought two beautiful flowers. One was a single, cut stem — a fire red carnation. The other was an Easter lily in a planter.
Looking at my four sons, she pointed to the blooms and asked: “These flowers are beautiful, aren’t they?” Holding the one cut stem, she asked, “How will this one look in a week?” Giggling, my oldest said, “It will look dead!” Then she asked of the health of the plant in the soil. My little boys knew that even next year, a bloom will come again for the lily, especially if the teacher planted it in the ground.
Then she asked a question that may be the most important question I’ve heard in a while: “What did these flowers do to make themselves so beautiful?”
I gasped at the thought — how I do at peonies: they had nothing to do with their beauty. Then she went on to ask, “But were the flowers doing no work?”
The boys talked about it for a week, the paradox of rest and work. It is such a mystery to do the good works planned for us before the foundation of the world without conjuring a single beautiful thing on our own.
The bloom comes from abiding, from letting the root do what it does.
I love a life that gasps at the lilies by the big trash can behind the garage and the lilies popping out of the compost pile like a scanty woman from a cake. Let it be that I see the beauty in my own life like this. It’s mine, but it doesn’t belong to me. The flower fades, but the poema, the words God wrote, and the life we share in Christ with the saints — these are the things that will last forever.
Glory be to the Root.