A Paradoxical Plant

A (not so) Short Devotion on Plants and Their Impact on My Life.

That’s what I started typing for this post’s title. Then I shortened it.

I’ve been considering lately the relationship between pain and joy, between brokenness and wholeness, between loss and gain. Our nature wants nothing of the first of each pair, and everything of the second. Why is it so hard to eliminate pain, brokenness, and loss? Why are joy, wholeness, and gain so elusive? Even if we don’t often ask those exact questions, they poke at our hearts, churn in our guts, whisper in our ears.

img_1649We have this plant in our front yard. It’s a nice green, leafy-frondy-looking thing. When I first walked too close, though, I learned that those “leaves” were really hard, and sharp. This plant could make a person bleed. I since have learned to steer clear of it, and had begun wishing we were not merely renting, so I could rip out the plant and avoid possible injury.

About a week and a half ago, some friends stopped by for dinner on their way through town. The husband told us that the plant is called a yucca, and that it would soon be blooming a bunch of pretty flowers. He pointed out the center-stalk, which at the time was short and barely-noticeable, with a cluster of tightly-closed buds at its top. Huh, I thought. That’s interesting. But I still don’t like it.

img_1647A couple of days ago, we went outside to walk the kiddos to their bus stop, and the yucca had lovely, delicate-looking white flowers, gathered around the much taller stalk, looking like a cloud of ladies dancing in white gowns. I was enchanted by the plant. And as I was texting a friend about it this morning, I started to think about the paradoxical plant.img_1650

Pain and beauty. Sharp and soft. Frustration dissolved in the face of the loveliness of the flowers.

The questions earlier — Why is it so hard to eliminate pain, brokenness, and loss? Why are joy, wholeness, and gain so elusive? — break down to simply this: Why is there death? Why is life not what it should be? The answers are simple and impossibly complicated, at the same time.

Sin. That’s the easy answer. But is it really so easy?

All have sinned and fall short. All are justified by His Grace…So how do we separate the good from the bad? How do we make sense of the hurt, the heartbreak, the junk of this life?

We don’t. It’s not for us to do. God, however, can and will. But He won’t throw out the wheat with the chaff. He won’t rush His work, or abandon His forbearance. We cry with the saints at the altar, “How long, O Lord?” but we also don’t forget that in these storms of life, He is tempering us, refining us, working us into His craftsmanship. He’s working in us to build His kingdom! So lean into the storm, muddle through as best you can, keeping the Cross always in your line of sight–for only there will you see what is needed. Weather the storm, and trust that He knows where He’s leading you.

If our next house doesn’t have a yucca, I plan to plant one. Just not so near the walkway.