It was as I picked twenty-five pounds of tomatoes in my garden that I noticed, my breath catching in my throat, the huge celosia flower. It’s also known as cockscomb, and though you can often find a small, plume-like version of it, getting it to grow as big as a brain is another matter. I’d tried many times without success to grow it from seed.
But right there, in the side flower boxes along the raised bed garden, my seed-grown celosia had put forth a mega bloom. Dry, feathery, and deepest magenta it was, a color it will keep as it dries out. “Oh God, You are so kind”, my heart said, while my dress sagged heavy from a load of tomatoes in the skirting. Kind to make such a beauty out of my bumbling efforts, right there in my weedy, riotous garden. I like that God’s gifts are not anonymous…they are fully intended to make us turn our smiling faces to Him in gratitude.
Later that day as the ten quarts of pasta sauce were cooling on the counter top, after all those tomatoes had been peeled and chopped and simmered long, after the day had run right over me on it’s rush toward bedtime, I heard the jars pinging, sealing themselves tight and it came again, “God, You are so kind”. Because He reminded me to put the citric acid in the jars, without which all my hard work would have been spoiled. And there were no exploded jars in the canner (which is an awful, awful mess), and the musical pings kept ringing in all His mercies that day.
Of course He loves us; don’t we hear that always? Sometimes we wear out the sentiment, the sense of it. We can become immune to how amazing it really is. Like seeing a whole field of celosias in gigantic bloom every day and no longer being held captive by a single flower. Immunity to the good stuff is just as soul-numbing as immunity to the bad.
“I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15
The other day I filled the kitchen chalkboard with “Ten Things I Love About My Sophia”. She read the words with a joyful-painful smile, the smile young ladies have on their faces when they’re a little embarrassed by their worth being recognized and praised. She bounded from the kitchen and clambered onto my lap, tucking in long limbs which had outgrown lap-dwelling years ago. She just wanted to tuck into me in all her joy and bashfulness, and I quite wish I could do the same with my Father in Heaven, though I don’t think I’ve ever quite outgrow His lap.
But that’s the right response, see?
What if she had mocked the words? What if she had shook her head and said that it wasn’t true, that she was a nobody and a good-for-nothing and didn’t deserve it? What if she was too occupied and busy to notice the words at all? What if she had called everyone over to the chalkboard and boasted about her obvious worth? There are so many wrong responses. And one very right one, running, bounding to the blessing-giver, in thanks and pleasure.
God is kind. On purpose. I think of all His mercies to me, personal ways that He’s demonstrated over and over that He cares for me and delights in delighting. I think of the honey harvest, and Henrik’s healing diaper rash, and the soap-making adventure which is filling me with wonder that fats and lye can come together and make a wonderfully beautiful and useful thing.
God is kind, and I speak that as one who has walked valleys in my faith that were dark indeed. When prayers fell back down on my bent head and the Heavens resounded with silence. I’ve felt the withdrawal of comfort and peace as tangibly as if someone had taken a warming blanket right up and off of me. I have shaken my fist at Him more times than I care to remember.
What do we say to a child who wants to keep on snacking, keep on filling up before dinner? We say not to spoil their appetite. And God in His kindness does care about our appetite growing strong enough to relish a hearty meal, a hearty faith, a hearty love. The valleys make us ache for the mountains, the darkness makes us ache for the light, and the small plumes of celosia make us gasp at the mega blooms. He wants us hungry because He wants to satisfy; more than satisfy, delight.
“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ ” I Corinthians 2:9