“Consider the lilies of the field…” They really are quite beautiful. I can just imagine them blowing in the breeze, waving back and forth, like the petals are reaching toward something just out of reach. I think about the colors, the shape of the flowers. Each flower is unique but in a sea of flowers. I visualize a field of flowers, moving like waves together. It makes me pause and inhale.
“Consider the lilies of the field…” Jesus tells us not to worry about clothing, food, work or worldly comforts. Instead, he gives us this image to contemplate, something serene and slow in a world that encourages rapid response and worry. How are we to stop worrying when we have really important things to worry about?
Doesn’t Jesus know that I have bills due? Doesn’t Jesus think about what horrible event that might befall me or my family or my friends? Doesn’t Jesus worry about the disaster right around the corner? I need to worry about these things because if I don’t, who will? I need to worry about the frightening possibilities because somehow I think that I can prepare myself for them. I need to worry because if I worry maybe through magical thinking those horrible events will not happen.
Ah-ha! There it is! I worry because I (think that I) want to be in control. I worry because I think that somehow worrying might change the situation with the power of my thoughts. Uh, yeah right. It might sound ridiculous, but I believe if we really explored why we worry we might find that indeed we do believe that our worrying will change things.
So what are we supposed to do about worrying? We are to “consider the lilies of the field.” What does that mean? I think it means that we remember wonder. I think that it means that we give thanks here and now. I think it means that we remember who created the universe and it was not us.
When you consider the lilies, watch the rain drops on the window, look at the squirrels playing in the grass in the backyard, you must stop. You cannot make the lilies less colorful. You cannot shut off the rain. You certainly cannot stop squirrels from raiding the bird feeder in the backyard (though I have heard about some products that say that they can). When you see these things, you passively experience them. You can try to shut them out, but they are still there as evidence of your inadequacy at controlling the world.
We conjure up this image of the lilies in our minds. We stop our attempts at control, and suddenly that imagination comes alive within us. Questions well up in our souls: how is this possible? Where do these colors come from? Why is it so beautiful? These are questions with no satisfactory answer except to draw our attention to God.
And yet, there is so much to worry about. The dreaded “what ifs” enter your mind. Heck, they are not just “what ifs” sometimes they are “what is.” What is my response to a child’s illness? What is my response to horrible injustice? What is my response to natural disasters? God may be in control, but gee whiz, why do these horrible things happen?
God knows why. This can be the other side of “considering the lilies” when they are thrown into the fire for fuel the next day. We wrestle for answers, and the obvious platitudes do not suffice. Perhaps again the questions draw us to God, draw us to love.
We can only respond with love. We can only answer the horrors and fears and worries with love. No promises of ease, no magical thinking, just love.