In The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (Chapter 1), the Little Flower of Jesus reflects upon God’s Creation:
I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden. He has been pleased to create great Saints who may be compared to the lily and the rose, but He has also created lesser ones, who must be content to be daisies or simple violets flowering at His Feet, and whose mission it is to gladden His Divine Eyes when He deigns to look down on them. And the more gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection.
Southern Illinois is God’s country. It is nearly impossible to prevent things from growing in the Mississippi valley, and I grew up in the midst of all that beauty. My mother was a high-level rose gardener, and at the time of her death had around 40 roses.
Roses can be temperamental. They require much care, and often people who have rose gardens hire staff to care for them to ensure their survival. My mother cared for hers herself, reading each year articles and books to learn both what they require and dislike.
As beautiful as they were I found myself enjoying some of the smaller flowers more. Perhaps it was my bipolar disorder that I could not focus for long enough on the roses, but the daffodils and daisies were just as satisfying to me as the roses.
The flower I loved most, though, was the dandelion. They proliferated in our yard and the bees seemed to enjoy them more than any of the cultivated flowers. I loved the way they popped up at seemingly random intervals around the yard and would provide entertainment as a method of proliferation. Who doesn’t love making a wish on a dandelion flower gone to seed, then closing your eyes and blowing them on their way?
This year my family decided to read The Story of a Soul as part of our Advent preparation. I was thrilled to read this meditation in the first chapter. The Little Flower herself captured completely my personal feelings about the diversity of flowers, yet I had never thought seriously about or understood the point she makes about how souls in God’s eternal garden are so like His beauty we enjoy here on earth.
By analogy if Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and certainly the apostles are metaphorically roses and lilies, then Therese might consider herself a daisy or violet. The rest of us likely see her as an orchid or other rare flower that I could never even contemplate being. As I have continued to contemplate this truth, I believe that I may be a dandelion of God’s garden.
At least that’s my hope.
When I first came to love dandelions as a child, I would pick a bouquet of them to place on my desk. But as I came to see how the bees loved them, I would leave my bouquet in the yard for them to enjoy, and for me to enjoy their enjoyment of the vibrant yellow blossoms. As a young adult I became what my friends called a “health nut” and began to study the ways in which plants can assist our health. I was surprised to find how many health benefits dandelions contain for humans.
The leaves can be used to stimulate the appetite (for example in cancer patients) and help digestion;
The flowers have antioxidant properties;
All parts may improve the immune system;
The roots can detoxify the liver and gallbladder; and
The leaves help kidney function.
I was thrilled to learn this, as it was consistent with my identification with this lowly plant. Yes, I thought it was beautiful, but most of my neighbors tried ardently to eradicate it from their property. Yet, here it was being useful. In addition to being useful, it also refused to stop. None of those trying to eliminate the dandelion succeeded. Metaphorically, I see this as my unwillingness to ever allow scandal or my personal sins to eliminate my faith.
And that’s what I have always wanted most of all in my life: to be useful to God and His people. I knew from a young age I would not be beautiful. I saw girls and women around me who were valued for the way they looked, and that was never going to be me. But I could work hard, work smart, and add value through usefulness.
I realize that metaphors of these kinds are not everyone’s cup of tea. It may seem frivolous to some that I spend any time contemplating flowers in this way. But what I tend to discover from these kinds of analogies is alternate ways to understand myself and my relationships to God and his people, and to help me grow in those relationships.
What kind of flower are you in God’s garden?