...Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them....Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Matthew 6:25-34
I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon.... Hosea 14:5
His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs; his lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. Song of Solomon 5:13
My gardening efforts are more as an editor than as a creator; or perhaps I could claim that my gardening artistry is more as a sculptor than a painter. Besides watering a few pots of herbs and flowers, my primary outdoor pursuits are weeding, mowing, and trimming.
There is a wonderful John Singer Sargent painting of two girls in white dresses lighting paper lanterns among luxuriant blossoms, called "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose". It has always reminded me of summer gardens at dusk; even more so because I spent many a summer twilight watching my two daughters chasing fireflies. The lilies in the painting are white and pink, and very trumpet-like. They seem to gather around the girls, focused on the lanterns. They echo the ruffles on the girls' white dresses. I have never seen lilies blooming like that; they show up in beautiful florist shop bouquets, but they are far more exotic than the day-lilies that show up in gardens I have tended.
The lily referred to in Biblical writings could have been any variety of flowering plants similar to what we know as lilies, including tulips and irises. It was probably any brilliantly colored, somewhat cup-shaped blossom that would have been noticeably elegant in order to be compared to Solomon's robes. It was also one of the symbols for Christ.
Myrrh is an aromatic oil from a resin that does not come from lily pollen, but the reference in Song of Solomon refers to the sweetness of the lily-like lips of the beloved. Myrrh was a prized, so it can be assumed that the lily too was a symbol for something very desirable.
The rains of late June coaxed all sorts of jungle-like greenery to take over half of my back yard. By the time I was able to get to it, it looked like a tangle of vines from Sleeping Beauty's castle, or some malevolent botanical species from Harry Potter stories.
When I cleared a section of the garden of these epic monsters, I was rewarded with a lovely area full of day-lilies, with strong stalks and bursting buds. Two of them broke heroically into bloom later in the day, shaking out layers of bright orange ruffles that were easily visible from inside the house. They gave me the courage to keep attacking the suffocating overgrowth, and for the moment I have restored some measure of peace to the garden.
Anyone with an appreciation for nature's glories is moved by the splendid variety of blooming things. We should look at ourselves with the same wonder, appreciating the miracles that make us what we are.
I tend to be overloaded with clutter and the noise of the world. I try to tend the garden of my life so I can breathe and reveal what God is making of me. It requires powerful resistance in this world to simply be the beautiful creatures we are. It seems that anxiety is always making a fresh attack on us. I try to keep those triumphant lilies in my mind as I fight what I hope is the good fight.
As usual, when a symbol or metaphor takes root in my consciousness, I become aware of other references from day to day. I have recently been re-reading a Harry Potter book, and his dead mother Lily is always revered in Harry's and other characters' memories. Her sister Petunia, who was a vain and punitive character, is aptly named as the more common, less revered flower.
Recently I worked with a voice student in some musical theatre workshops. She was trying to prepare a good cut for an audition piece, and she needed a lot of assistance from the workshop presenters. I accompanied her on the piano as they worked with her, and we talked afterwards about her music. She was so grateful, and asked if she could hug me. It was so touching - not just to receive that sincere appreciation, but to watch her blossom as we all worked with her. I was tickled that her name was Lillian.
My grown daughter has a close friend she met in grade school named Lily. I saw her recently, and was struck again by her radiant smile and energy. I am aware of powerful community activities she is involved in. She has come through some immense personal challenges in her life, to be a person who guides and leads others with respect and a nurturing, positive attitude.
Prayer: Wondrous Gardener, your lily is a beautiful reminder of your stunning creation and your ardent care for all of it; for all of us. Help me to revere your work, which is creating your world day after day. Help me to accept the care and nourishment that will make me continue to grow. When there is anxiety or other antagonists threatening the flourishing of your work, help me to prune those things from my life and my world. Thank you for the lily, and for the eyes to appreciate its infinite beauty. Amen.