Lessons from a Snapdragon

It’s the start to every day. “What can you thank God for today?” I ask my students this question but really I’m choosing to ask myself. I’ve noticed that when I choose to be grateful, my day is completely different. I’m not saying it’s perfect, far from it. But there is a different focus when I emphasize how blessed I am instead of focusing on frustration.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV)

You did it:  you changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you. God, my God, I can’t thank you enough. Psalm 30:11-12 (MSG)

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As I was coming home a number of days ago, I noticed this snapdragon by the garage door. I’d driven past it all summer long and completely ignored it. However, on this particular occasion the bright yellow blooms contrasted with the grey of the concrete and I was struck by the resiliency of this plant. There doesn’t seem to be anything worthwhile for this plant in this location. The soil can’t be good – what grows in concrete?! Water only comes when it rains. Nutrients? I’m not sure where it’s getting those either. But this flower blooms brightly, defying the odds. It’s found a way to survive the harsh conditions and bring beauty to a place that is known for its function and not for beauty.

Parts of this year have been filled with grief. In a moment’s notice it comes back, flooding my eyes with tears and making my heart hurt. Missing loved ones never gets simpler or easier to understand. It’s like concrete – hard, seemingly immovable, difficult to deal with.

But along with the hurt and pain of grief come flashes of joy and delight. Time spent enjoying a meal, laughing over shared memories, delighting in friends, choosing to sing in spite of a wondering heart. It’s those bright yellow blooms – you can’t help but smile when you look at them.

… that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. Psalm 30:12a (NIV)

When my heart is bogged down, when complaint is the first word on my lips, my heart seizes and becomes silent. I ignore the wonders of the King. I choose to turn my face away from beauty and focus on the drab and dull. Lingering in this place is dangerous for my soul. I become me centred and selfishness bangs rudely on the door of my heart, barging its way in and staking its territory. I don’t like myself here. I forget the provision and wonder of my Master. I begin to obsess over things that are trivial and self-serving. I miss what He is doing because I am too busy looking at what is best for me.

Instead, I choose to have a heart that constantly sings. I choose to have a heart that is loud, trumpeting the praises of the Most High God. I choose gratitude and thankfulness. I choose to look for hope and flowers blooming in concrete. I choose to be reminded that my God is forever with me – in the wailing of grief and the joy of laughter. I choose to remember that my God is with me and worthy of the worship my heart can lavish on Him.

What can I thank God for today? More than words can even begin to describe.

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