Why is this blog called ‘the flower of the grass’? Because I have always been particularly struck by the Biblical verses about the ephemeral beauty of the flower e.g. Isaiah 40: 6-8
‘The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.’
Our modern society tries so hard to forget the ephemeral, fragile reality of our lives. Today, each of us lives, and loves, and breathes, and knows; a tomorrow will come where we are gone from this earth – rich or poor, beautiful or plain, beloved and unloved, intelligent or agile or creative or simply industrious – perhaps we will suffer, perhaps we will grow old, certainly we will die. I find this hard to imagine. When I pass by graveyards, I sometimes muse on the fact that those now lying there were people with lives and loves as vivid as mine, and now they are utterly forgotten, and in time so I will be. And it is then that I can look on the world, yes, on much of my own life, and see its folly and its triviality.
But why am I musing on this today? Well, a spiraling chain of thoughts brought me here. This was not the blog post I originally planned to write. Honestly, I wanted a space, away from almost everyone who knows me, to pour out a little lament and self-pity. You see, I had forgotten I was grass.
Still struggling with ill-health and anxiety, my heart is often heavy-laden these last few months and each day can seem like a labour, and rest like a distant mountain. My life is full of commitments and responsibilities to those who love me, those who need me, work I am committed to doing, and illness – of body and mind – has sometimes stood in the way of fulfilling these commitments and responsibilities, despite my earnest and whole-hearted desire to do so. I, who scarcely ever cry, have once this year poured out desperate tears, and at other times have felt close to weeping. But, in such moments, I have been standing on my head and looking at the world upside-down.
I have been reading Kisses From Katie, and this afternoon was struck by this passage:
‘I’ll be honest: The hard places can seem unbearable. It’s dark and it’s scary, and even though I know God said He will never leave or forsake me, sometimes it’s so dark that I just can’t see Him. But then the most incredible thing happens: God takes me by the hand and walks me straight out of the hard place and into the beauty on the other side. He whispers to me to be thankful, that even this will be for His good.
It takes awhile sometimes, coming out of the dark place. Sometimes God and I come out into a desert and He has to carry me through that too. Sometimes I slip a lot on the way out and He has to keep coming back to me. Always, on the other side is something beautiful, because He has used the hard place to increase my sense of urgency and align my desires with His. I realise that it was there that He was closest to me, even in the times when I didn’t see Him. I realise that the hard places are good because it is there that I gained more wisdom, and though with wisdom comes sorrow, on the other side of sorrow is joy.’
I have been afraid. Last night, on the phone, my boyfriend told me not to worry – that even Jesus tells us not to worry. That was a slow wake-up call. Yes, He does. I already knew that. I have been trying and failing not to worry for hours, days, weeks, months, years. But I need a lot of waking up!
I am afraid that I won’t get back to my healthy, bouncy self for a long time, perhaps ever. In dark moments, I am afraid of becoming really sick or even dying – I know I am thinner than ever due to gastro-intestinal problems, and so often tired, too often pick up viruses, that my busy schedule and almost relentless struggle against anxiety that so many of the scheduled activities trigger puts my body and mind under further strain – I am afraid of the worst case scenario if I can’t turn the current situation around. But that’s anxiety too – fearing the very worst. I’m afraid my boyfriend will get tired of me often being ill and decide I’m too much hard work and break up with me. I’m afraid that I’ll be distanced from my family and friends. I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep my work commitments. I’m afraid of being ill and alone and lonely for the rest of my life. And yes, all that’s anxiety too. And I’m supposed to apply CBT techniques and reassure myself that I’m catastrophising and over-generalising and the chance of these things happening is very low. And yes, that is helpful.
But, I’m not stupid – I know these things are possible, though improbable, and I’m afraid of the improbable possibility. And in times of dark worry, that seed is a hard one to uproot. But what does console me is Christ’s promise: ‘Come to me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matt 11:28). There is one person who will never, ever leave me. He won’t think less of me if I’m too ill to keep my commitments to meet up with Him, or chat with Him, or do something for Him. He will never decide my weaknesses mean I’m too much trouble – He’ll never leave me. In my darkest, loneliest, most miserable times, He’s right there beside me. Even when I cry, and complain, and question why, with anger, despair, and grief, He still loves me and He’s still there for me, waiting for me to run into His arms for comfort. He understands me better than myself, and understands the situation better than I do. He never lets me down, though I fail Him continually. So long as I love Him, I can never lose Him. That is the true rest that Christ offers. Everything and everyone else, I could lose, but – so long as I love Him, so long as I want Him – I can never lose the love of my life, my all in all.
I have learnt this through these difficult months. I have a greater understanding of my utter weakness and reliance on God. I am beginning to understand that the people around me are not mine, that my work is not mine, that ‘my commitments’, ‘my duties, ‘my responsibilities’ are not mine; when God puts them into my Hands, He is delegating them to me, but when He takes them out of my Hands, they are in His, and I need not worry about them. He holds everything. It is prideful to think that I am responsible for others beyond what I can do, day by day. Ultimately, everything is God’s, and He just asks me to be a caretaker of a little bit of His creation sometimes. He gives me things, He takes things away, they are not mine, they never were. Even I am not ‘mine’: I am His.
So what is there to be anxious about? What worries can stand against such a truth? The battle is to keep remembering that this is the truth. To lay aside my pride – my claims to responsibility and ownership over ‘my’ life, ‘my’ loves, ‘my’ work – and surrender to the truth that these belong to Him, and to trust Him to guard them and me perfectly, however inscrutable His actions may seem to me. One day, we shall see clearly. All I am called to do is to come to Him, and there is true rest unto my soul.