More Than a Pansy
There is a pansy growing between the bricks on my patio. It wasn't planted there, at least not by me, but I'm convinced its placement is deliberate.
It seems a terrible place for such a delicate, pretty flower. Surely this dainty pansy would flourish far more in soft, fertile soil rather than cramped within the confines of cracked mortar. And yet, it bears not one bloom, but four. Four! And though it stoops with each rainfall and bends with each breeze, still it raises its blooms tall to the sun each day. Still it greets me each morning with a silent reminder of two blessed truths.
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
We talk often here of God's sovereign provision, but still it is easy for the franticness of life to shift our focus away from the King and onto ourselves. As Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater in these verses, though, we must rationally conclude that his words are true. If God so beautifully clothes the fading grasses of the field, how much more can we depend on him to provide for our daily needs?
Still, God demonstrates his gracious provision to me daily and has done so in remarkable ways over the years. So while this sweet reminder from nature is welcome and dear to me, I perhaps find the second lesson this pansy is teaching me even more impactful.
Bloom Where We Are Planted?
The phrase "bloom where you are planted" is not found in Scripture. It is most often attributed to Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), but the phrase has of course gained popularity in modern times thanks to designers of knickknacks, home decor, and tote bags.
If we consider the reality of this phrase, it actually proves to be unhelpful advice, at least in the context of our own abilities. Let's face it, some flowers simply cannot bloom where they are planted. I once purchased a half dozen or so begonias for my front landscaping. They were so beautiful at the nursery, and I could just imagine them brightening my yard. I brought them home, planted them, watered them, and then, in just a few days, watched them turn brown. What could possibly have gone wrong? Well, as it turns out, begonias can't flourish in full sun, and my front yard enjoys the summer sun all day long. So these flowers could not bloom where they were planted, no matter how much I wished them to.
The Great Gardener
Ultimately, however, the Lord is the greatest gardener there is, and if he decides a plant should thrive in an unlikely location, it will. This is keenly evidenced by my pretty pansy between the bricks.
Most of us think we know what is best for ourselves. Surely we would flourish most in fertile soil: a steady, well-paying job that we enjoy, a comfortable house, adequate transportation, and three warm meals a day. And, by God's grace, many of us doenjoy these luxuries, or a majority of them. They may look different for each one of us, but God cares for his children just as he's promised he will do.
What do we do, then, when God says, "Flourish" and we say, "Wait, what? This isn't the job/house/circumstances I wanted, Lord!"? What do we do when contentment is hard because, at the end of it all, we simply don't like where we are or what is happening?
None of us are immune to this. Perhaps it's a trying job or an enfeebling illness. Perhaps it's discord in our family or persecution from our friends. All of us at some point have and will find ourselves in circumstances where we are inclined to say, "I can't flourish here." In this context, by "flourish" I mean serving, growing, and bringing glory to Christ.
Are we prepared to say to God, "I can't serve you here. I can't grow here. I can't bring you glory here"?
"He Has Dealt Bountifully With Me"
Scripture abounds with examples of godly individuals who, in essence, bloomed where they were planted. These men and women persevered, in spite of their circumstances, and praised God in the midst of whatever they were enduring. Think of the many psalms that begin with the psalmist's prayers for help, but end with the psalmist praising God, despite the fact that his circumstances had not changed.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
God does not have to prove himself to us, for we are sinful and he is holy. We are mortal and he is immortal. We are wholly dependent on him and he depends on no one. Yet, he doesprove himself to us over and over. He does this through Scripture, where we can see real and vivid examples of his faithfulness to his people. This faithfulness, it is important to note, is extended in spite of the unfaithfulness of its recipients. We further see that God has proven himself to us in our own lives. If we cannot look back over the course of our personal history and see this, then we are woefully blind and hopelessly proud.
God through Christ has provided the way of salvation for us. Once recipients of that salvation, he grants us his indwelling Holy Spirit, who enables and empowers us to live according to his ways in spite of our sinful flesh and our fallen world. How else can we in one moment cry out, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?" and in the next declare in praise, "I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me"? Surely it is only his own grace and power that enables us to serve and praise—or bloom—in this way.
God's will is good and perfect even when it is not what we think we need or want. To bloom where we are planted does not mean that we will have financial gain or fame or a flourishing life by the world's standards. Rather, it means we will faithfully serve, delightfully praise, and subsequently grow, because we realize that the goodness of the Lord knows no bounds. It is not restricted by trials nor diminished by clouds. He does not withhold his goodness from those who belong to him.
God has deliberately placed us where we are. It does not mean we will remain there forever, but we are not precluded from serving him just because we are uncomfortable. So go. Pray. Ask. Bloom. Praise.
*This post originally appeared at Do Not Be Surprised.