In June the foxglove were stunning, marching down the clearing through the woods in soldier-like array: tall, straight, proud. Mix metaphors they did, as pale orchid and creamy-white spires cathedralled their way toward heaven: radiant, pure, lovely. Stunning in their seeming valor and beauty. We admire these virtues – valor and beauty- when they display themselves so effortlessly. We admire the ease…
But, it is no longer June, and as the September sun burns brown and gold on the fading salmon berry, my gaze is caught by a lone foxglove (the others are long gone in tight seed bundles, no color left). But here is a late bloomer, straggling across the path, misshapen in the repeated brushing-by of much foot traffic. It dared to grow close. Far down in the woods, I spy one more; stately and proud, rich lavender in color, hidden in a shady glen. These two do not achieve the striking mass effect as when displayed with so many others just like themselves. But one, hardened by its well-worn life, dared to go where no other travelled. The other, presents far richer in color than my recollection. It, too, has bloomed to fill a dark, more lonely place. The last foxglove(s), blooming spot-on.
As Christians, as anyone…, we wrestle with fitting in versus standing out. We strive to be first; to be valorous and stunning. We continually compare our vestments with others, rarely feeling that we measure up. We challenge personality, and appearance and roles…
When our youngest daughter was 5, I panicked to realize that her same-age cousin was already reading, and she was not. Fortunately, the thought shocked me into realizing that my children were not a display case of gifts and talents, neither theirs nor mine, but individuals created uniquely, to reflect the many facets of the image of God. And so a different journey began. At times it has been a struggle, either repetitively or from a discipline perspective to continue moving in the direction of God-intended uniqueness and gifting, when there is so much pressure to conform to a world-set standard. There is pressure to glow in skin and teeth, to achieve in power and the pursuit of accomplishment, to fill titled roles, to be good at whatever one is doing.(That was a little hard on the one who mostly wanted to have fun…) That’s one snapshot, along my parenting journey.
Here’s another, of a woman walking the last stages of breast cancer. Patrice(name changed) wrestled with the lost ability to ‘mother’ as she knew that role; to be the strong one, the helper, the friend, and instead be weak physically to the point of needing her children’s help: to stand , to walk. She wondered aloud what it meant to be present, but to be so ‘not a mother’ who would be there for her children no matter what. Her role was drastically altered, almost beyond recognition, but she was still here…for what purpose?
A special needs child, walks so far outside the norm, to make one wonder what role he/she fills in our society that has been founded at least in part, on every man thinking for himself, and making a contribution. But there is a subtle difference between society, and community, and every community needs…give and receive…and one need not walk, nor ‘glow,’ nor even speak… to give and receive.
“So in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5 NIV
This verse is bookended by 1) the call to offer our bodies as living sacrifices – to let the vital parts of our being expend themselves in sacrifice…and, 2)expressions of how we, as individual parts, make up a body: that as those parts, we are gifted, with other members of that body as object recipients of the practice and expression of those gifts.
We are for each other, and in that, for Christ.
Perhaps to me, the most hope-filled and glorious expression of this playing out in reality is found in Isaiah 61:3 NIV: the poor, the broken-hearted, those imprisoned in darkness and despair, the downtrodden and the grieving; bloom. Perhaps late, perhaps apart from the first planting. And majestic those first blooms are, encouraging and challenging all of us. But these last bloom as well. They glow, in praise. They grow hardy and true in purity and righteousness. They serve, as priests in God’s kingdom. The last foxglove…the priestly oak. God’s splendor.
We are FOR each other, unto Him. Planted on purpose, with purpose. Placed…
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Eph. 1:23 NIV
There are so many ways in which the roles we fill, and the people in relation to whom we fill them, shape our sense of self and purpose, the meaning of our days. “Really, God?”has been spoken more than once. I welcome your comments and thoughts – they may bless another.