The Understatements — Dandelions and Daisies

Teachings_of_Jesus_5_of_40._parable_of_the_mustard_seed._Jan_Luyken_etching._Bowyer_BibleWhen I was in preschool, I was part of a group of kids driven to their homes by a nice lady who always had juicy fruit, and who always called us stinkweeds — I believe she had a song to go along with it as well. I never quite understood why she called us this — if it was because we smelled, then juicy fruit wasn’t really the right choice of gum — but I never took it as an insult either way, always assumed it was because there were a lot of us. To be completely honest, I’ve never really looked too harshly on any weed, in spite of struggling to kill them all my life at home. Weeds are hated because they never die, they pop up everywhere, kill off anything that gets in their way, and never truly die. Yet let’s consider Jesus’s words for a moment, that if you have “faith as small as a mustard seed” it will grow “larger than all the garden plants” and you’ll move mountains with nothing impossible to you (1). Weeds are what we want; we want faith that grows, that pops up everywhere, kills off any hindrance (such as sin), and that never dies, but only sprouts after every death. We want faith like a weed, we want Christ to call us all His stinkweeds, and maybe even sing a song to go along with it (or is that too ridiculous?). I’ve recently learned something about this however, I’ve learned that while we want that kind of faith, we aren’t always one kind of weed.

UK2014 TeamA few weeks ago now I joined a wonderful team of friends to travel across the UK and try our best to join in what God is doing there. It was a short trip, and 60% of it was spent traveling, which made it seem even shorter; but, just like small seeds don’t mean little faith, short doesn’t mean little either, for this was truly a big trip. Some of the best moments were small, like getting stuck for two hours on a train, enjoying dinner at a pub, or finding little treasures in old dusty shops, and these “little” moments are the very things that made up the trip, that make up life, and that made the trip big. Little moments are the little seeds of life that grow into big and great trees, into fields of flowers. And, little people are the same: hobbits to the destruction of the one ring, fairies to the life of a storybook world, and a carpenter’s Son to the salvation of humanity.

For four of the ten days we were in the UK, we lived in Bridgend, Wales at WEST (Wales Evangelical School of Theology), helping support the school and promote the churches that it partnered with, such as assisting with landscaping and running a big family fun day on the grounds. On the first full day we were there, we were introduced to most the school’s staff. One particular person we were introduced to was a sweet little lady named Sheila. Our first sight of her was as she came to the front of the room, and quietly, with a sweet composure, told us that while she wasn’t actually English, she had been through a rough life and so she was just as reserved as if she were. She introduced herself as little, as nothing of immense importance, but she was the person that had the greatest effect on all our team; she was a big and great lady in a little character, she was a weed that could cover a thousand fields.

Restaurant de la Machine à Bougival, Maurice de Vlaminck, 1905

As you ride about the English and Welsh countryside in a crowded train, which we did quite a bit of, you’ll find yourself surrounded by fields of grass covered in clumps of dandelions and daisies. While most people would see both these as simple weeds in the grass, there is something absolutely delightful about them. Dandelions stand as little round clouds of bristles above their surroundings, and when the wind hits them hard enough, they let out these little bristles to fill the field with more bristle-clouds. Dandelions, therefore, are essentially impossible to get rid of, since no matter how hard the world is around them, no matter what hits them, they always rise back up and keep fighting, keep standing, even if they may lack a bit of color. Daisies, on the other hand, are far more gentle. They, I suppose, are the joy of the dandelions, with their bright faces and sweet spirits, they fill the world with a colorful hope. Yet, what they surpass in beauty, they lack in toughness; for, unlike dandelions, daisies are far more susceptible to harsh climate and the trampling of life. Together, the two are tough as serpents and gentle and beautiful as doves; apart, one lacks joyful color in exchange for a tough spirit, and the other lacks that tough spirit for exchange of a joyful color.

Sheila was a dandelion, a tough flower that had been trampled in life, but still came up for more every time, even if she was a little reserved. Yet, she was also clearly a daisy; she filled every place she entered with a breath of color and life. Every time she spoke she had this way of making you want to simply wrap her up and bring her with you everywhere you went. Sheila, while she isn’t a very big or loud lady by any means, clearly shows everyone how to live life in a big way. I must admit though, I’m no Sheila; I am certainly a dandelion, I certainly never give up or never stop fighting, but I find it really difficult to be that daisy, to come up smiling, to always be joyful. I used to be, but I’ve let myself become too much of a dandelion. This trip took a lot out of me; I was beyond exhausted for most of it, and after my body started feeling the toll, I ended the trip feeling pretty miserable, and still took about another two weeks to fully recover afterwards. I honestly tried to keep lively and let the joy I did have on the trip fill me, to be as joyful as I used to be, but for the most part I was no daisy.

Every time, it seemed, she spoke to us, Sheila would point out the difference in culture, in that while Americans overstate everything with big and grand words, the English and Welsh (neither of which Sheila was, mind you) understate everything, and that when they say it was “quite nice” what they really mean is that “it was very wonderful”. The main crumb trail that brought me to this trip was my testimony, in that I was brought to Christ by C. S. Lewis; so, it was only natural for me to assume I’d end up sharing my testimony at some point — even if I signed up for it in those footsteps of the reluctant disciple. The day I shared it, two wonderful things happened; the first was that the weather, which, even on the day we walked around for three hours passing out hundreds of flyers for this day’s big event, the day we hiked to a castle, and the day we walked around Oxford, had been nonstop pouring rain since we arrived in the UK, suddenly ceased and the sun shone from rise to set. The second great thing that happened that day, was that I did a horrible job sharing my testimony, even the worst I’ve ever done. I was too nervous about it to enjoy the beautiful weather or any of the day much, which honestly isn’t very characteristic of me at all, and when it came to it, nothing came out quite right and I didn’t really know how to share it at all. My friend on the trip who also shared her testimony did a wonderful job, thankfully; such a wonderful job that it drowned out how horrible of a job I did. And her testimony was wonderful, truly wonderful and sincere, touching so many people. While mine, well, it was empty and short. It was truly a grand miracle.

A few days before the trip ended we spent a day walking about Cambridge, and began with a walking tour of some of the city. Part way through the tour, our guide showed us the tree outside what was once Isaac Newton’s office, and began talking about science and coming to understand the laws and rules God put in place for the universe’s operation. He seemed to believe that science helps us understand God and understand how to control His creation, but it made me realize something far different. It made me realize that, as Christians, we put our faith in something outside creation, beyond what we know as possible. We put our faith in Someone who died and rose again, who created the very fabric of anything we understand, who calmed the storm, turned water to wine, and could, if it so pleased Him, create a square circle. Our faith in the One outside the known possible means truly nothing is impossible to those who believe, who share such miraculous faith. And, even more than that, we are in, being in Christ (2), the very Being who created the laws of the universe, and who thus is beyond such laws, so we are, so to speak, living within a miracle, we are existing in the One outside of order, of what we’d expect, of all that’s possible. We are children of a miracle.

A pastor of mine once spoke that, “If we can’t believe foolish things, then we can’t believe God.” Since, of course, the cross is foolishness to those perishing, and hope to those who believe, who are being saved (3), we have to believe foolish things before we can even begin to have such hope. We have to be a daisy, be joyful even when the rain is falling, otherwise we are foolish, otherwise being a dandelion is not even worth it.

The Gardener, Maurice de Vlaminck, 1904

Shortly after I told my testimony, I ran across Sheila. She told me that there were people there that needed to hear what I said; I, however, knowing how badly I did, only figured she meant to cheer me up, given I didn’t feel well and knew I did a wretched job. That is, until that night. At the end of the day we had a group debriefing to go over and pray about everything that had happened, and this night Sheila joined us. We all went around and answered different questions she had, whatever God felt like putting on our hearts, most shared a bit of their life, a rough time they had, or a joyful time, a dandelion or a daisy; I ended up sharing a dandelion of course (not sure why, but He was very heavy on me sharing it). Sheila though, she shared the story of her son, a story that ran very similar to my own testimony, she even spoke the verse that I normally tag along with it, but forgot about this time. She said, or rather Christ said of a blind man, that these things happened so the works of God might be displayed (4). Sheila was talking about herself when she told me some needed to hear what I said. I badly told a story, and yet exactly who needed to hear it, heard it. I was made little for a “little” purpose, I was made a weed.

For, you see, it’s not so much about what we’re looking at, but what we see that truly matters, that changes the weed we are. Weeds may be weeds, but I see strong dandelions and beautiful daisies. Some miracles are grand and big, some come in and take our breath away, bring out the sun, rise the dead, fill our hearts with joy. Some, however, God chooses to be a little bit English about and tell an understatement: a mere whisper of breath instead of a gale.

So, while we are running about looking and trying to find God in a lottery or a map to our eternal joys, God is next door planting a few weeds, telling us, “They look quite nice, don’t you think?”

  1. Matthew 17:20; Matthew 13:31-32
  2. John 15:1-11
  3. 1 Corinthians 1:18
  4. John 9:1-3
  5. Intro Image: Parable of the Mustard Seed, Jan Luyken
  6. Body Image: Restaurant de la Machine à Bougival, Maurice de Vlaminck, 1905
  7. Closer Image: The Gardener, Maurice de Vlaminck, 1904

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