Tonight I sat next to my mom as she poked at the fire contained by our makeshift fire pit. Stephen, Gracie, and Jimmy were laughing about how they’d look in ten years. The sun had set a few hours before, and the coolness of the night was settling in nicely.
I realized, as I talked to mom about God, about His will, about His word, and about how stubborn and ridiculous I am and how He loves me anyway, that this was probably one of the few bonfires I had left to spend with my family. I realized that things were changing, and that I was and still am entirely powerless to stop them. I watched my siblings play around with Sophie and all of her Saint Bernard-ness, and all I could see was their elementary school selves, not the high-school, teenage versions that actually stood before me. Where had the time gone?
I sat there over-thinking (of course), whispering to God, “I just want to stay here forever. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want anything to change. I don’t want to grow up. No, I don’t want to do it.” Amazing how, in one moment, I can be ready to take on the world and then in the next be so ready to exclude myself from everything outside of my Shire. But I was frightened. I was nervous. The massiveness of the City and the unknown were overwhelming me as I sat suspended in that moment. What ifs sped through my head at lightning speed, and I felt like a doofus for over-thinking about over-thinking…again.
“Hunter.” My mom caught my attention. “Have you seen your flower up there? It has two huge flowers on it.”
I thought of what flower she was talking about, and remembered. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine gave me a blue hydrangea as a gift. I’d planted it behind our house, watering it every day, until I sadly watched it wilt and die. The next summer, it came up from the ground, small and skeletal, but green nonetheless. It didn’t grow very tall, but it grew until it fell asleep again. This summer, however, it was blossoming, looking more like a plant than it had the first couple of times I’d seen it grow. No mom, I thought, I didn’t see the flowers.
After the bonfire, when I’d doused out every ember and Gracie had scattered all of the ashes, I put the hose back and studied the flower. Surely enough, the healthy green leaves reached up to my knees, and two fat blue groupings of small hydrangea flowers were blossoming close to one another. I smiled.
Call it corny, but the growth of the flower reminded me of Matthew 6:25-34, where it talks about the lilies of the field, how “they neither toil nor spin,” and yet God takes care of them, gives them room and sunshine and water and soil to grow. And then there’s me…aren’t I more precious to God than the lilies of the field? Yes, I am. I don’t deserve it, but I am. I worry about all sorts of nonsensical things like what people think and how awkward I am and about my own imperfections and shortcomings. I worry about things that the rest of the world worries about like money and marriage and career and whatnot. But then I’m reminded of the truth. I’m reminded that God isn’t limited by the world…He’s not limited by my worries or my fear…He’s greater than they are. I’m reminded that God made me for so much more than ordinary life, so much more than what I have planned. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and God is love incarnate, perfect love for that matter (4:7-8). Therefore, God casts out fear. His love casts out fear in me. I have no reason to fear, because I’m loved by my God.
Do I understand everything about the world? Definitely not. Do I know what’s going to happen in the future? No. Do I understand everything that the Bible talks about? No way. Am I learning? Always. Through it all, however, whether I understand it or not, whether I know all of it or not, I trust that God is beyond me, that He’s greater than what I feel, that He is true and valiant and sure and perfect and constant in every way imaginable. I trust that He’s outside of me, that while He’s given me His Holy Spirit upon my adoption into His royal, holy family, He’s not constrained or restricted by me in anyway. I realize this is a topic that I talk about on a regular basis, but it’s where God works on me the most. My greatest fear (other than caterpillars, foot-long millipedes, ya know, only the really scary things) is the future, the unknown, as I imagine it is for many people my age and beyond, maybe even before. But God’s truth doesn’t change with my fear. Just because I’m afraid doesn’t mean He’s any less than who He says He is. While my fear rears its ugly head every now and again, God has freed me from being enslaved to anxiety, He’s rendered me, by His great grace, capable of facing the future and laughing at the times to come as I stand clothed in strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25). I’m not enslaved to anxiety or worry, that’s not the spirit God has given me (2 Timothy 1:6-8).
So I left my hydrangea there, trusting that God would continue to grow it, continue to bring the rain and the sunshine, continue to will it to be dormant and then will it to come back to life in the summertime, continue to take perfect care of it, giving it what it needs, continue to change it, just as He will continue to do with me as I abide in Him, His bride, His girl, His daughter….
“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” —1 Corinthians 13:8-13, ESV