April 26, 2009

The Lily of the Valley

Two years ago my mother-in-law dug up a Lily of the Valley plant for me to put in my garden. I was excited to have this delicate little flower in my shade garden, but because it is a relatively small plant, and its blooming season is quite short, I missed the blooms on it last year. It blooms right after the daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips . . . so I just forgot to "stay tuned" for this spring flower to make its debut. All that I saw last year was the greenery and dried-out flowers. Then this year, I forgot I even had the plant! But the other day I was planting some hydrangeas . . . and then there it was . . . the Lily of the Valley in full bloom! Without even remembering to look for it, I somehow instinctively made my way toward it. Just as it is often the case with my relationship and connection to Jesus. I know it's there . . . I intend to check in . . . but I get sidetracked, or I temporarily forget what's there and go on to other things that grab my attention. But my soul instinctively remembers the connection I will always have to Jesus. And when I lay down my jumbled thoughts that distract me and tap into my soul's longing, I always seem to reconnect with what I often keep buried in the dirt: Jesus. And He deserves so much more than laying dormant in my heart like a bulb in the dirt. He deserves to sprout within my heart and extend into the world. And I'm worthy of Him living through me as well!

Jesus is often referred to as the Lily of the Valley for many symbolic reasons. But I'll share my favorite reasons why this flower links so closely to Him:

With their heads bowed toward the ground, Lily of the Valley blooms represent the humility that Christ modeled. I struggle so much with this, being very stubborn and strong-willed at times. I constantly remind myself that humility is not weakness but the highest form of inner strength. We can most effectively serve others when we put away our false pride and humble ourselves. I love one definition I found for humility: "the absence of vanity." That about says it for me.

Lily of the valley, I learned, is an extremely fruitful plant. One root can produce fifty bulbs! That's a lot of lily! Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, He bears much fruit, and He glorified the Father by doing so. I am called to do the same. To bear fruit in His name by how I live my life and how I love others. This often produces a ripple effect in the world. As one good, humble deed often leads to other good deed by applying the "pay it forward" philosophy.

Another fact I learned about Lily of the Valley is that it exceeds other flowers in whiteness. This links to Jesus in His purity. In His lack of sin. And it's only by His purity that we are made clean and pure. I used to struggle with the teaching that we are truly made clean--white as snow--in God's eyes by His grace through Jesus. It's mind-boggling that anything so dirty could ever come clean again (although I've seen pressure washers do some good cleaning!). But I just have to come to grips with the fact that there are just some things that are true no matter how well I understand them. And becoming pure is one of those things.

Humility. Fruitfulness. Purity.

Such wonderful symbolism from a little plant like Lily of the Valley. God always seems to get His message across in the simplest things and in the simplest of ways. He really doesn't work through layers of obscurity and confusion . . . He quietly plants His seed within us and lets the answers unfold through our experience of the world, but only if we care to notice. That's the key. Because it's always our choice to listen or not.