When I look at this photograph my grandmother took, I can’t help but wonder at it. The graceful petunia, often seen spilling out of containers boxes and hanging planters, growing in such an unexpected place. And it’s not simply that some wayward seed landed in this crack and sprouted. It’s the way this plant has thrived in such austere circumstances. Just look at the multiple blooms and the health of the greenery in the absence of lush soil and fertilizer. Growing from the place where two slabs of concrete come together. In between “a rock and a hard place.”
Funny thing about life. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way we envision it. Hopes and dreams don’t take us where we planned. It may seem that God has placed you or allowed you to fall into an inhospitable environment, unconducive of growth.
Maybe you’re living the dream, and as it turns out, that dream is really tough. It’s like your roots are trying to break through stone. You’ve been striving, scraping, waiting on the moment you can coast a bit and breathe. Success was supposed to come easier. A simple formula: If you worked hard on the vision God gave you, that big break would come. Sooner not later. You look to your left and right, and there are people growing and thriving with seeming ease. And you, you’re trying everything possible just to get this dream into fertile soil so it can grow the way you think it should. But all you can see is what holds you back.
Or maybe, despite everything you’ve done right, life seems to throw you time and time again. “If only” your health would improve. “If only” you could win the lottery or find a wealthy benefactor and pay off all that debt. “If only” you hadn’t been so hurt by this world, you would have more love to give. “If only” you could just catch a break, you could find that path to happiness. Give the way you want to give. Become generous instead of holding so tight to your time, your love, and other resources. If the circumstances were right, you could be the person you’ve always wanted to be.
This little petunia in the concrete crack…why does it thrive when it should not have lived? If I were that little flower seed, I might have said, “Oh, well. I can’t grow here. If only the wind would blow my seed just a little farther, to that fertilized ground, I could grow and be beautiful. I will keep my beauty tucked inside my seed coat and wait until the opportunity I long for opens. Because this place, it is too hard. If God wanted me to be useful and do good things, He would have placed me somewhere else.”
Interestingly enough, the flowers of the field and the birds of the air don’t overly concern themselves with where they grow and thrive. They just do what they were created to do, making the most of what they were allotted.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The beauty of the petunia in my grandmother’s picture is not so much in the flower itself. A petunia is a fairly common flower. Not one that makes people stop and stare. BUT…the beauty of this flower is where it grows and how it thrives. Truly thriving has far less to do with our circumstances and abundantly more to do with what we do with what we are given. Leaving excuses and false guilt behind.
Maybe as Christ followers, we are not so much called to meet the world’s standards of success. But instead, we’re called to persevere and search for God’s purpose in each season of our life. Unconcerned with “what if’s” and “if only’s” and focused on the face of our Creator. Doing the things He has called us to, no matter where we are planted. No, it may not look the way we envisioned it. But, when we grow with Him no matter where life blows us, we have an opportunity to show uncommon beauty to a sparse concrete world.
Sure…it looks impossible. But, we don’t have to do the striving or expectation meeting. We just have to open up our seed coats and allow God to do the unfolding.