Daffodil

February 15, 2009

daffodil2Saturday is Recycling Day, at least when my parents, older sister, and two sweet nieces are coming to visit me and I want to clean my place up a bit.

I walked outside to grab the grungy plastic laundry basket that helps me save the world. Tin cans with tomato soup residue, rain-soaked cardboard, a plastic container emptied of organic bleu cheese (my sister makes fun of me for my eating habits) — there they were.

The first yellow daffodils of the season. Arresting. By that I mean, I was stunned into stillness for a few moments, drinking in these fragile splashes of egg yolk yellow, being for just an instant as much a child as a man. Creaturely. Able to pause in awe without self-analysis or consciousness.

I said a quick prayer of thanks. We are halfway through winter. Tree branches are still gray and brittle-looking. Yesterday was overcast. The sky was an empty white-gray bowl. A romantic relationship recently ended. Like an East Tennessee Hamlet, I felt the weather and season.

Yet, flowers sprout beside my broken sidewalk. Hope springs eternal. I did not plant the bulbs. No one remembers who did. I have not watered them, cleared away the weeds, or cared for them in any way. Yet, they are a bright promise of spring. Spring is a promise of life after the deadness of winter. The seasons are another manifestation of the Gospel story: because of Jesus, rebirth follows death. Physical death is a transition into life at its most abundant. A feast waits for us.

I get so tangled up in my head. My faith bogs down in cerebral theology. I want to know, to understand. However, Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments, the heart and lungs of human existence, and they’re not that complicated: love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. How do we begin loving God? With a simple desire to love Him. He promises to meet us in that desire and to teach us. How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? By showing them mercy. Don’t we all want mercy? Don’t we want 2nd and 77th chances? Don’t we want love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, gentleness, goodness, and self-control from our brothers and sisters? Don’t we need their forgiveness and laughter? Don’t we want them to share their hearts and lives with us?

Well, it’s not as complicated as I make it out to be. The Father doesn’t hand out merit badges to the children who predict the future. He has no expectation that we’ll solve the problems of the world. What does he ask of us? To love him and enjoy his presence forever. Where do we start? In the present moment. Right now. Enjoy this conversation. This cup of coffee. This passage of your book. Enjoy this song, this task, this simple meal. Tell God, “Thank you.”

I know suffering makes it difficult to enjoy each moment, but I think George MacDonald was onto something when he said, “The Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like his.” That is, redemptive. Cling to Jesus in times of trouble, and He will make your suffering redemptive.

Keep an eye out for daffodils. Pick one and give it to someone you meet along the way and say, “How is it with your soul?” Listen well.

We were dead, but now we are alive. Praise Jesus.

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