A few weeks ago, I had two cars, one for me, one for my wife. They were not fancy or impressive, but they worked well. They both had air conditioning (something important in Tennessee in August). One was paid off, one is close, and given the quality of these cars, we felt we should expect a long life yet. We also have a third car, paid off but with lots of miles, that just needed to have the A/C charged. All was well.
Then, a child had urgent need of a car. So we drove my car out to him. We would keep my wife’s car, then get the A/C charged on the 3rd car. I would drive it as long as it lasted. All would still be well.
On the drive the windshield on my wife’s car cracked and had to be replaced. That caused a problem with the windshield wipers, which required an expensive repair.
It turned out the A/C in the 3rd car did not need to be charged, it’s a major repair that exceeds the value of the car. Also: the lawnmower stopped working (but not before destroying my phone).
Now I have a car with no A/C and some very large bills for the other one, and will most likely, have more for the lawnmower.
It may not surprise anyone to hear that a school teacher has many blessings—but generally not the financial kind. We’ve worked so hard to save, to pay our cars off, and now everything seemed to be falling apart. I would be lying if I said these things had not stressed me out. They left me feeling heavy, anxious, discouraged, and worried. Fearful, not faithful.
Such was my state of mind the other day as I walked from work to the auto repair shop. I felt pinched and tight in my soul, quickly moving to irritation and anger.
As I crossed a bridge over a creek, I saw a flicker of movement. A water snake was gliding beneath the surface, moving with an incredible grace. I watched, entranced. Then I saw tiny fish, darting and dashing through the swaying weeds. Another school of fish, slightly larger, swam against the current, not making much progress but always moving.
It was cool over the river, shady on a hot day. The water lapping the stones created a gentle soothing noise.
As I watched this scene, peace started to radiate into my troubled heart. There was a moment I had a choice, a second when I wanted to push the peace away and wallow in my stress and worry. Happily, I yielded to the peace, and as I did, it grew and grew. The peace got big, bright, and beautiful, soft and soothing, like an enormous flower.
With a more peaceful heart, word flowed along into my mind, almost as if they were borne along the gentle current below. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin…”
This gave me peace and hope. I am not sure how it all will work, but I feel confident that it will, even if it’s not in my time or my preferred method.
I walked to the auto shop, with a much happier heart, peaceful and no longer troubled and anxious.
This experience is actually not to lament my problems. Rather, it sets up a meditation on something important.
The teachings of Jesus about considering how God cares for the lilies of the field had brought me comfort. I hadn’t seen lilies, but I felt snakes, fish, water, and reeds counted.
But I also realized that this teaching came back to me while I was actively considering the lilies, so to speak—actively focusing on the natural world around me.
Jesus told us to take no thought” for the needs of this life. At least one translation suggests he meant “anxious concern,” which certainly fits the way most of us attend to our modern lives. Another version says, “Don’t worry.”
We all know we can lose sight of God because we focus too much on pursuing and accumulating wealth (see Luke 12: 16-18). That is obvious. But we can also lose sight of God when we simply become consumed by worry and stress about our daily needs. Either way, we shift our focus away from God and others. That is what was happening to me.
I was saved from this when I stopped and actively watched the natural world around me—when I considered the lilies, so to speak.
I’m not the first to notice that being in nature helps calm and focus us, helping us open a channel with or at least boost the signal from God.
In light of that, I wonder if statements like “Consider the lilies of the field,” or “Behold the fowls of the air,” are meant to be active commands, not simply nice thoughts or useful images in making a point.
It seems to me that considering the lilies of the field—watching, thinking about, and focusing on nature around us—is possibly a prescription for what to do when the cares of this world start to burden us, a very real way of restoring spiritual equilibrium, balance, perspective, and hope.
But there’s something else about this that I can’t shake. It’s so deep in my soul and so profound to me I’m not sure I can effectively share it. But there’s something remarkably gentle about a God who would leave instructions to his followers that involved looking at and thinking about flowers. That he would choose that image, that specific command is telling, I think.
Flowers are beautiful. They are soft and welcoming, freely giving their gifts to anyone. They ask or take literally nothing from anyone or anything. Lilies, particularly, have no real function. They are just beautiful.
What kind of a god would use flowers to teach? Only a gentle, loving, kind god, only one who was prone to giving and bringing smiles. Only one who loved beauty and meekness.
I find it significant that Jesus even bothered to tell his disciples about the sorts of things we would encounter in daily life—the stress of providing for our physical needs. It shows just how aware of us he is, just how much he cares about things that are major to us, even if they are cosmically insignificant.
I also find it significant that to do this, Jesus used flowers. Not lightning, or earthquakes, not fire, or other big, scary, dramatic things. He told us to look at the flowers. I think it tells us a great many things about him—and those things are all encouraging and ought to give us great hope.