“And I will give him a white stone and on the stone a new name.”
There is a flower that lives above tree line in the Rocky Mountains that has captured my heart for almost 40 years. It is a flower that can be difficult to find. I shudder at the thought of how many times I might have trampled this rain-drop sized flower under the lugged sole of my boot and have been none-the-wiser.
I’ve sat at 13,000 feet, chest heaving, trying to gasp every ounce of oxygen out of the thin air and, while on that tawny carpet of alpine tundra, head between my knees choking back mountain sickness, spied the Lilliputian pinwheel of blue petals and yellow pistils smiling at me in the shadow of my size 14 hiking boots.
They come from the genus Myosotis, which in Greek means “mouse ear.” In a German legend, God named all the plants when a tiny unnamed one cried out, “Forget-me-not, O Lord!” God replied, “That shall be your name.” Because the alpine forget-me-not flourishes on the tundra where the winter wind and snow blow with a fierce intensity, they never grow larger than the top button on your shirt.
In all my years of trekking at altitude, I am filled with wonder when I find this shy flower. And often when I fold my 6-foot, 4-inch frame and kneel down to get a closer look, I whisper something only God would hear, “I see you, little one.”
What has struck me over the years has been how such delicate beauty could survive in such harsh conditions and I marvel at a Creator-God who would plant it in such inaccessible places. I have no idea how many times I have found the flower and thought God is delighting in his creation. Or to paraphrase Anne Lamott, “God is showing off.”
Showing off to whom? I would be the only person to see it. How many millions of little blue, mouse-eared flowers are never seen by any sentient earth-bound being? He must have made those for His own delight.
This is so unlike me. I do virtually nothing for the sake of beauty alone. I never prepare a sermon and want to preach it to an empty church. I never write an essay or a story hoping no one will ever read it. Any beauty I might try to create, I want to share with others. I want someone to say something laudatory about my art.
But my ego is fragile, and I am trying to be larger than I am.
Each flower is the same, at least it seems so from my naked eye. Doesn’t God get weary of the sameness of His creation, no matter how heart-poundingly beautiful it might be? I guess the short answer is, “No.” He keeps on doing it season after season, mountain after mountain, flower after flower.
Monotony is my enemy – because I am human, and monotony makes me vulnerable to sin. Perhaps it was monotony that made the forbidden fruit look not so forbidden. Maybe it was monotony that caused King David to look at a bathing beauty. And just maybe it was monotony that made the Pharisees fail to see the Creator-God walking and re-creating in their very midst.
Monotony makes me antsy. So, I distract myself with trivial pursuits.
Not so God.
G.K. Chesterton wrote:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’ and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.
“For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Beauty is a reminder of the “appetite of infancy” that is at the heart of our Creator-God. I find myself valuing it, wanting to possess it and desiring to create it. There is something about beauty that takes us to the place of the innocent delight of being a child. And perhaps it is in that wonder of delight we step into, if for but a moment, another garden coming down from heaven at the end of days.
So, you don’t know my art? Perhaps you don’t know my name. No matter. Each time I marvel at the beauty of a bashful flower, I remember that it is but a taste of another garden where I will receive my new name.
I will not be forgotten, and neither will you.
Joe Chambers is the pastor of Mountain Heights Baptist Church and can be reached at 425-446-1596.