If flowers had Instagram accounts, what kind of "colorful" personalities would they boast? Imagine them taking selfies. Would they balk at the imperfections of their own petals, or post pictures of themselves staring pensively into the horizon? I'd bet the carnation would have a massive following on Instagram. The prairie gentian would be the humble beauty with a creative spirit. None would be as self-absorbed as the red rose.
Botanists have identified over 400,000 different species of flowers ― each with its own, unique qualities and characteristics. A single bloom elicits adoration. In bouquet, they have the ability to color your heart with joy. Excuse my pining, but people actually make bouquets out of dead flowers.
Alive or not, it's interesting to note that they command your attention, yet they never demand it.
Consider a zinnia, known to be the longest-living flower. It could exist in a field for 24 days ― unseen, untouched, un-followed ― and it would blossom in unashamed delight of its own creation. That's because its beauty stems from the essence of its being, not being seen, liked or stalked.
Could you go 24 days, or even 24 hours, in the same unrequited conditions?
Not to make flowers sound pretentious (or to put them on petal-stools ...) but what's the secret to such carelessness and indifference? I learned the source of the flower's beauty from Maria, an Italian florist I met on an airplane back in 2015. This is what she told me:
Fundamentally, a flower needs three elements to survive: soil, water and sunlight. (Not likes, followers or affirmations.)
Suppose you lived similarly. What would be the soil, water and sunlight of your life?
To be honest, my chance encounter with Maria the Florist was more of a divine confirmation. Her insight came as providence to an idea seeded months before we sat together on our afternoon flight to North Carolina.
I had been studying the Bible for some time, and begun illustrating metaphors in my mind based on stories and themes within it. One of my earlier revelations came from a struggle I had with interdependent behaviors and insecurities in people (and myself), manifested via social media and unhealthy relationships, as well as navigating the challenges of loving, or just getting along with people I found difficult to be around. All of these anxieties led me to a solution that is really the bedrock of love, according to Jesus.
"36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40
The line "love your neighbor as yourself" convicted me. It's what revealed the root of my issues with others: issues I hadn't understood within myself. If I can't love others, perhaps that's because I have trouble loving myself. And if I don't have a sense of self-love, then perhaps I'm not communing well with God, who is love.
So, what about flowers and what do they have to do with our self-image? Well, Jesus compares us to flowers in the following parable:
"28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’" - Matthew 6:28-31
Or "What shall they say about me?" How does God take care of us ― our social fears, anxieties and self-worth ― as he does the lilies of the field? He gives us the same resources:
Seed & Soil
"The seed is the word of God." - Luke 8:11
And we are the soil:
"15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." - Luke 8:15
"37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." - John 7:37-39
"12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” - John 8:12
You too are God’s wonderful creation. No amount of likes or selfies could prove more clearly the quiet knowing of this simple fact. All you need is the right heart, life-giving water and light. Anoint yourself with these elements to discover true beauty and validation, #unfiltered.
Thank you for thinking.