The Last Foxglove

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.

Selah

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.

Jlf 9/12

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4 thoughts on “The Last Foxglove

  1. I love the idea of our gifts being sacrifices for one another. It’s easy (at least for me) to take this passage as a confidence-booster, a way to remind me that I’m special and needed. While this is true, the gifts God has given me are a part of his bigger plan—his Kingdom mission—and not a measurement of how or why I’m special. Like the late-blooming foxglove, God’s timing doesn’t fit into a 24/7 agenda. It’s uncertain, perhaps frustrating and routine-shattering. Our gifts do not give us the easy road to success; rather, they are God’s way of shaking up our perfect schedules, his tools to change the cogs on our clocks and rewrite our itineraries in order to fulfill his.

  2. Calyx Hoag says:

    There is no doubt in my mind, at all, that the day-to-day raising of a special needs child is a challenge in the extreme, perhaps like running a daily marathon of physical endurance and climbing an Everest of can-my-patience-take-any-more-of-this? The enormity of the task, to give and give and give, to clean up after, to clean up after, to clean up after, to shield, to protect, to …..it just never ends, and it probably feels that way, too. The inordinate difficulty of it, is a weight that would no doubt crush us lesser beings. We watch you in awe and admiration for the loving kindness that you display in the little and simple acts of caring for another. We see how your yoke of serving is well polished where it fits your shoulders, like an oft used tool handle, and we are amazed to see the wear – especially when we look at our own yoke. Most of us would flee, run, hide.
    There is also no doubt in my mind about the unique role a special needs child provides for the rest of us who are only there occasionally, and perhaps only observers. More than once, I have gone to church with the sole purpose of hoping to run into a certain young girl, who without fail finds me, hugs me, smiles at me and seems to want to sit by me. She often holds my hand, touches my arm, and then hugs me again. She has such glee in her face when she is doing all of this, that it surprises me, every time. I don’t get it, and am not really sure what she gets out of it, but I know what I do. Her touch is soul filling, unadulterated kindness, and a loving act, that is so rare in life that I go out of my way in hopes of having a head-on collision with it. Totally selfish on my part, probably. This I-love-you-even-though-I-don’t-know-you act is so selfless on her part that just even the idea of such selflessness is making my eyes brim over as I write this to you. (Glad you can’t see it.). I don’t really have words for it. But, I am thankful for it.

    • Calyx, thank you for your amazing words. I’m going to share them for others to see, because of your affirmation of Little Miss Sweetness, and because there are others out there, running the same marathon, who need to hear your encouragement. And then I am going to read them again, probably more than once…Thank you.
      PS She does get something out of it: I’ve often felt that while ‘love makes the world go round,’ communication is a very strong partner in that. For her, in a world of extremely difficult and limited communication; people and animals, (so lump yourself where you will…)are what make the world alive. Much as she welcomes others, you are a ‘welcome to the world’ for her.

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