“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.”
One of the things I will miss about Pembroke next year is its gardens. I’m right in the middle of town, but inside the college walls is this secluded little Eden. Yet, I am often so busy rushing about or with my head in a book that I barely notice how beautiful it all is. Or maybe it’s just raining, so I am less enamoured. Nevertheless, God still makes sure that nature radiates His glory, regardless of whether it gets the attention and praise it deserves. God isn’t a utilitarian: He’s not about efficiently maximising His time and capabilities: He makes things beautiful because of who He is rather than for a specific effect. He can’t waste His time; He can’t waste His energy.
“But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you?”
It’s astonishing that the exquisiteness that God puts into nature pales compared to the care he lavishes over us. We might feel we’re far too tiny to have a place in His plan. More lily-livered than the lily who silently witnesses God’s character. But God’s definition of worth is beyond our understanding- it simply has to be in order to love so boundlessly. But, I don’t think we have to cognitively battle our cowardice: I think Jesus is speaking about there being a beauty in dependency. In other words, it’s less about positive thinking- “I am stronger than I think” or “I can do this if I just put my mind to it”- than just saying “God, I’m scared; I don’t want it to be this way.”
Having seen friends battle through suffering, and try desperately to trust, to know God’s protection and guidance deep in their heart, and to surrender themselves to His will when He feels so far from them, I can definitely testify to that beauty. I suppose it’s like the medeival hermits who hid themselves in forests, deserts and barren islands to prove to themselves God’s ability to provide for them: glory is most radiant when it’s surrounded by bleakness. For where they feel distance, I see immanence. Maybe it sounds perverse to find reason to praise out of another person’s hurt- but then again, the lilies can hardly consider themselves.
Whatever the knots in your stomach and the binds upon your heart, your soul is never shaken. And maybe that’s something that is most visible for an outsider. To those who see you calling on the Lord- whether that’s through gritted teeth or with your hands high in praise- and infinitely more so to God Himself, you are lily-beautiful.