I am astounded by phlox. You know, the tiny little perennial flower that pops up in bright pink, purple, and white this time of year on hillsides and rock walls. We planted a couple of small bits on our patio around some larger planters four or five years ago and each year it comes back bigger and more impressive than the year before. And the amazing thing about it is the utter lack of maintenance that phlox requires, how it toils under the ground over the winter, stretching and growing out of our view, and how it shows off its bright new growth with the warm spring sun. Like a miracle.
In these last years, I’ve come to understand and accept the growth that happens out of my view, the wild way of God to open and close doors I’ll never see, to weave interactions and possibilities out of my control. It’s a principle that’s hard to trust in the cold of winter and outright humbling in the spring when the phlox busts out flourishing and beautiful in a way I did not train or force and God seems to say, “You weren’t sure, my dear, but here it is. I did it again.” Making all things new.
This is the way of God. Quiet, underground, and slow, yet bold enough to make you take notice. The carpet of phlox on my patio is not something I could have designed nor created but it is something to enjoy. And this may be one of many lessons I am to take away from this time of quarantine too, this letting go and trust that feels so much like labor to me sometimes but which requires only my planting, my open hands, and time.
What’s growing under the surface of your beautiful life today? What are you planting in the good ground of the time we’ve been given? It seems to me that the fruit of this quarantine will tell the story of the next chapter: for individuals, families, organizations, and institutions. In my community, country, and world, I see people sowing kindness, good works, and the example of self-sacrifice. On the other hand, I also see the sowing of division, fear, mistrust and hate. What we plant will surely take hold and grow out of our view and control, and it will bloom and show fruit for others to see. When we’re all back out in the world and into our routines, it will be clear and obvious what we’ve chosen to plant, for better or worse.
As we enter into a time of transition back to ‘normal’, it might be good to remember that there is no such thing. Life will not return to the way it was before this time, and it shouldn’t. Intentional planting of goodness, humility, and service will reap a better society and country than the one from which we retreated back in March. What we plant comes back around, season after season, bigger than we intended and with consequences we could neither choose nor plan. If there’s one thing we could take from this time, it’s the reality that we’re all farmers. And by our fruit, we’ll be known.