It's Christmastime. Most everyone is talking about Christmas. Jesus. Poinsettias. Presents. I was thinking of writing yet another blog on the meaning of Christmas for our times. Then I started to worry about the future. Thinking about how I'm stepping out of my comfort zone. No longer holding a full time job, so I can commute to school. Confused about my place in the church and in the world. Concerned about what the future holds. In the midst of this, I was reminded of a comforting scripture. A scripture about being Present in our lives. A scripture about lilies of the field. I remembered that I had written an article about just this very thing a couple of years ago. I thought I'd share it here:
And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these…if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will God not much more clothe you?” ~ Matthew 6:28—29, 30
A few years ago, in the early part of my discernment process, I was seeing a life coach and spiritual director to help me discover what I was being called to do with my life. One of the techniques used by these professionals is called guided visualization. During one session, my director asked me to visualize myself going into the future and meeting my future self. I was to imagine that I asked my future self if she had anything important to tell me. When the session was over, not only did I feel refreshed as if I had rested, but I also had the strong sense that I was to “discover the meaning of the iris”. This enigmatic thought stayed with me, and when a lone purple iris bloomed outside my home the first summer I lived there, I was reminded of it. What could it mean? The puzzle remained in the back of my mind, resurfacing whenever I saw the beautiful iris. Until recently, the only thing I knew about this bulb plant is that in Greek mythology, Iris is the goddess of the rainbow. I figured that unless I was Dorothy of Kansas, this had little to do with my “message from the future.”
Then, one Sunday, after the Praise Worship, I sat in the Narthex of the Education Building for over an hour and a half in conversation with Carol and her son Jason. Carol is a retired botanist, whose favorite flower is – you guessed it – the iris. As a hobby, Carol works with old-world irises, creating hybrids with the garden variety irises that are more familiar to us. That day, I learned that at one time, a certain strain of irises grew over the Middle East like prairie grass. It was a particularly beautiful species of iris, and grew prolifically over Israel and Lebanon. These aril irises are the old-world variety that Carol works with. Botanists believe that the aril iris was once known as the “lily of the field.”
As Carol shared this fascinating story with me, I was struck with the certainty that here I had found “the meaning of the iris!” It came so quick and sure that I had to share it with her immediately. I am convinced that I have been assured that I have come home! The iris represents the long heritage of my Judeo-Christian culture. I belong in the church in some capacity, and I belonged in it even before I was aware of it. Perhaps more importantly, I have been assured – as we all have been assured – that God will care for me; clothe me, feed me, and comfort me. This is the assurance we have all been given by Christ. Jesus said, “…shall not God not much more clothe you?” Yes…I have found the meaning of the iris. Am I not the lily of the field? Are not we all?
There is another metaphor in the work that Carol does as well – the modern variety iris is like the Christian, who is grafted by faith to the promise of God to the Hebrews – the old-world lily of the field. The purpose of hybridization is to create sturdier, more adaptable stock and richer variations. The older variety no longer grows prolifically in its natural environment. It is at risk of extinction. Isn’t that just like people? We can become set in our ways, resistant to adaptation and vulnerable in the face of change. When we are open to new ideas and find ways to incorporate new discoveries into our vision for the world, we become something new. As we learn to adapt to changes in the world and in our lives, we become more fully who God means for us to be. As I have adapted to my changing world, I have gained strength in its diversity. A new and powerful faith has emerged as I have felt the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the movement of my life. As I have allowed my spirit to become infused with the Holy Spirit, I have begun to learn what faith really means. Yes, God has clothed me – not only in the garments of my physical existence, but in the very Image of God’s Self.