When I was studying at TUKS, I would walk to campus every day. It was a fairly short walk, but one that I often had to sprint because of my habit of leaving way too late! On the rare occasion that I could make the journey at a slower pace, I was able to admire the beautiful gardens of lilies and aggies that the university had planted.
I can’t say I was any less stressed in class on those days, but throughout the day I would remember the bright flowers and stop for a second to see if there were any other pretty flowers or buildings, or even a weird out of place rock, that also deserved admiration. It was a little game that slowly became a habit.
Although looking for the little, beautiful things in the mundane, never made my day less stressful, finding those flowers helped me to focus on other things for just a second, and often put my day into perspective. No matter how poorly I did in a presentation or unappreciative my students were, there was always something beautiful to look for. Shifting my perspective didn’t take the stress away but it helped me to understand that the whole world wasn’t crumbling away when mine was falling apart.
In Matthew 6: 28 – 34 we read:
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Jesus said this during His sermon on the mount. I like to imagine He stood there pointing at the surroundings, talking about everything His Father, our Father, created and cares for. I can just imagine the tenderness and mild exasperation in His voice as He explains that we are completely and utterly cared for.
I also like to imagine how the people who were listening had been so engrossed by what Jesus was saying, they lost track of everything else. Maybe for some, Jesus asking them to consider the valleys below and see the flowers blooming, was the first time in a while they had stopped to consider the beauty all around them. This was in a time when they weren’t constantly connected to work or the world. When things moved slower, and even then, Jesus needed to remind people to recentre their focus.
In our non-stop world, there is a toxic culture of needing to constantly be doing something productive. There is always something that needs doing, and we end up not taking time to appreciate life. We let worry and our fears for the future get in the way of our view of God. We forget to just Be Still and Know. It’s no wonder so many of us are burnt out by this time of the year.
This chapter in Matthew reminds us to take a step back and put our lives in perspective. God has made all things beautiful and all things for a purpose. The lilies only needed their showy petals to attract pollinators. God could made something simple that got the job done but wasn’t particularly beautiful. Instead, He made something that grabs the attention of more than just bees. The lilies received what they needed and more, without ever worrying about the future. Our Father knows what we need too and will provide it, without us needing to worry.
As we rush around living our lives of sleep (maybe), eat, work, repeat, let us not be consumed by worried thoughts. Let’s stop to admire the occasional lily.
Take a second to appreciate something small and beautiful in your day and be reminded of God’s promise to provide.