From planting hardy grass seed and fertilizing to watering then mowing and edging, diligent home owners invest hard-earned money and valuable time into manicuring their plots of earth. Neighborhood dwellers compete to keep up appearances when it comes to their square of land. Who doesn’t want the coveted “Yard of the Month” sign anchored in their front yard for all to see and envy?
What grief befalls the vigilant landscaper when little yellow blooms emerge to take up residence in that lush green outdoor carpet threatening to thwart all chance for block superiority. Then the dandelion continues it insidious scheme of proliferation by morphing into white balls of seed transportation. In man versus nature, the battle persists endlessly.
Too many times to count, one of my little ones has met me with a beaming face and an outstretched fist bearing the gift of one of those vexing blooms. And I recall my own youthful joy when, cheeks puffed, I blew my hopes and dreams aloft with those tiny, white, seed helicopters. Those dandelion bouquets, arranged in my best plastic drinking cups, scarcely seem a nuisance and who could resist the temptation to send a wish into the wind with one of those cotton ball heads.
So often we invest our time and energy into creating our own vision of beauty and perfection. Our homes and our lifestyle can mirror our image of reality, but sometimes it is really a vision based on worldly relativism rather than on Christ’s example.
We hire realtors to help us in our hunt for the ideal house. Location, location, location is the mantra that guides our decisions as we search out the white-picket fenced lot in the right neighborhood. Keeping up with the Joneses incites us to measure our plans in square feet. If only we can afford the extra bonus room and bath, then we’ll be content and able to entertain our friendly rivals.
A job with an impressive title and an equally significant pay scale is the goal. Then, there’s the car needed to accompany that status so we can park in the company lot unashamed. And things, lots of things purchased with the monies earned from that career, that will surely make us satisfied.
Make-up, diets and designer clothes, hair color, pilates and the latest shoe fashions insure we look stunning and eternally youthful. Pop culture’s starlet of the moment donned a fashionable baby bump while teetering on stilettos and two months postpartum she’s back in her size 2 skinny jeans. Following her advice, we’re guaranteed to look and feel like the belle of the ball.
|Okay, maybe not quite the bumper sticker you’d pick|
One son and one daughter are the reward of careful family planning. Of course, we’ll want them to be adorable, bright and self-sufficient so that they earn us a “My kid made honors at LaDeeDa Academy” bumper sticker. Reading parenting magazines and trusting the dictates of all the experts promises our offspring will excel at math and violin and soccer and science and…
But then authentic life happens and crosses spring up in the midst of our well constructed reality. A foreclosure, a job loss, an illness or a child with special needs interrupts our lifestyle like those weeds in the front yard. Try as we might, all our human efforts to fix the problems may fail to reach the roots allowing one trial to beget another and then another. If we focus on our limited personal capacity frustration, sorrow and disappointment may spread seeds of doubt and hopelessness within us.
My own life has more often looked like my yard, green with weeds and dotted with nature’s choice of posies. However, I suppose at times I’ve deluded myself into believing I maintain some modicum of control over my lawn and my life. That began to change a few years ago as we shouldered burden after burden, cross upon cross, when I required surgery, miscarried repeatedly, my husband lost his job, medical bills piled up, unexplained fertility issues developed and depression descended often.
My prayerful pleading seemed unheard leaving me to battle germs of misgiving. While I never questioned God’s existence or attributes, I did second-guess His concern for me and my worthiness to petition His aid. Maybe I lacked the right format or perhaps my novenas weren’t sincere enough, I reasoned. If only I could craft the correct formula of penance and petition, then God would end my trials.
Instead He drew me closer to the cross. And isn’t that the Way of Christ? Counter to all of our notions of success, He came into the world small and helpless, grew-up in obscurity and chose a life of material poverty. His ultimate goal was death on a cross, so that we could truly attain eternal happiness.
Like dandelions to a child, so became my afflictions in His shadow. In learning to accept my struggles (to be grateful even) I was able to fashion them into a spiritual bouquet more lovely than any I could have arranged on my own. And maybe He’ll allow my prayers and talents to help scatter His seeds of faith here and there.