A Parable of the Peony

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. (Albert Einstein)

If this German born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and the world’s most famous equation of E=mccan understand everything better by looking at nature, then this simple girl can surely learn from her as well, right? 

There is Someone else who used nature to help us understand everything better using stories. 

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Jesus told many parables, short allegorical stories designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson and often used simple things like sowing seeds, sheep herding, coins, fish, harvesting as subjects to some of life’s greatest instructions. 

Consider the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. His stories could be taken at surface level, I mean… 

What farmer doesn’t know the soil you plant your seed in matters? You could walk away with a simple garden lesson and go plant some literal seeds, hoping for a better harvest because of the agricultural lessons you learned: Stay away from rocky pathways, keep the weeds to a minimum, amend the soil for the best harvest. We’re gonna eat like kings and queens come harvest time, baby!! Thanks Jesus! 

Then there are those who wondered…is He talking about actual seeds and soil or is there a deeper meaning here? Who is the sower? Does that even matter? Do the rocks mean something? And what about those pesky weeds?  They walked away pondering profound truths that would give them a lifetime of learning.  

He still uses nature to teach, as long as we have ears to hear and eyes to notice. Because beyond the surface of the simple is a sacred something to see. 

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Enter the peony. Their spring season is short so every day I walk out to check their progress. They go from this: 

To this: 

In a matter of only a couple of days.

Small buds that bust a move with blooms as big as my entire hand. Gorgeous colors. Petals so soft you can barely feel them. Each one intricate, unique. Layer upon layer of lovely. 

As my daughter and I were inspecting the peony progress I said to her, it’s hard to believe that just a couple days ago this tightly wound bud went from this (pointing to a bud), to this (pointing to one half open), to this gorgeousness! (pointing to full bloom) Who would’ve thought there was so much beauty inside such a small bud?  

With arms loaded, we brought some of them inside to enjoy. Later that night that still small voice whispered, there’s also beauty in you that’s dying to bloom big blooms. You have no idea the possibilities that are waiting to bust out. What keeps you from doing so?  

Yeah. What does?

I came up with some possibilities. Maybe you can relate?

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I’m going to start out here with the FACT that we all, Every. Single. One. Of. Us have God given gifts and talents. Don’t say you don’t, or we will have to have a group intervention for your clarification! Nobody wants that. Just ask my kids. 

So, what keeps us from bringing out the beauty and blooming big? 

We Compare. 

It’s the thief of joy, according to President Theodore Roosevelt. And this quote from Brene’ Brown: The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of ‘fit in and stand out!’ It’s not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity, it’s be just like everyone else, but better. – from The Gifts of Imperfections 

What would happen if we stopped trying to be just like everyone else and started bringing our own uniqueness to the table? Can you imagine the beauty that bouquet would bring? 

You are wanted. You. Not you being like your best friend. You. 

We Downplay. 

How many times have I started the answer to the question: What do you do? with, Oh, I’m just a… or I’m only a…

It didn’t matter if I was talking about being a stay-at-home Mom or when I was working a job for a paycheck. It didn’t matter if I got paid to write an article or was simply writing to share on my blog with you, I downplay myself. I’m just a writer…not like an important writer…not famous or anything…just, you know, someone who likes to write…sometimes…

Do you do that too? Can I hear you saying, YES! OH MY GOSH! YES!!

Why? Just why, do we do this to ourselves? 

We have to stop the insanity and be proud of the gifts and talents we have and the jobs we do! We need to encourage each other to bring the full bloomed flower to the group! Can you imagine how different our culture would be, our homes would be, our workplaces would be, our churches would be, if we stopped devaluing and underestimating the importance of our God given gifts and talents? 

You are needed. You. Not the just a… or only a… But-full-booming-bloom-here’s-what-I-bring-to-the-table-in-all-your-lovely-YOU.

The Dreadful Iffy’s.

Oh, how these can dance in my head! Maybe you’ve had this same conversation with the what if’s as well. I’ll throw out a handful with the antithetical answer in the parenthesis: 

What if I can’t? (But what if you can?)

What if I fail? (But what if you succeed?)

What if they don’t like me? (But what if they do?)

What if I’m too much/not enough? (But what if you’re just right?)

What if it’s not worth the risk? (But what if it is?) 

What if I fall? (But what if you fly?) 

Anybody else have this conversation in their own head? Dreadful iffy’s be damned! Let’s, each one of us, live in the Oh but what if and not be afraid try. Let’s be courageous enough to take hold of our thoughts, be the boss of our internal voice and walk into our calling. 

You are brave. You. Even with knees knocking. You. 

We’re Blind to Ourselves

What you see as ordinary, I may see as extraordinary. What you consider to be just who I am, may be the exact thing that is much needed at your job, in your home, your church, your ministry. We don’t often see ourselves as others see us. As activist and educator, Marion Wright Edelman said, you can’t be what you can’t see. 

Often, when I’m leading a Bible study, we’ll have opportunities to point out a quality or gift or something one likes about another and it is such a JOY to watch as the one who is getting the compliment actually receives it as such! We have no idea how our “normal selves” can be used for God’s glory.  

We need to compliment and encourage each other so we CAN see what we CAN be! 

We were having an after-dinner conversation a couple weeks ago about “inspired versus inspirational.” Are we one or the other? Should we be both? I made the comment about how we should be inspired by others so we can in turn be inspirational. To which my man asked if I thought I was inspirational. To which I replied, no not really. I’m just a stay-at-home Mom. (Take my own advice much?!) 

My teenage son was surprised. Are you serious?  Then proceeded to list every reason why I inspired him and others. I had no idea he noticed such things. Who was truly surprised then? 

If we were having coffee, I would sit across from you and make a list of the blooming qualities that you can’t see. Those gifts and talents that you downplay would become the aroma others enjoy long after you’ve left the shop. 

You matter. You. You have something to give. You. 

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I may not have a Nobel prize for my contribution to quantum physics like Albert but we do have something in common, we both love to look at nature for a deeper understanding. 

The parable of the peonies sure made me think beyond how gorgeous they are. Maybe the story helped you too? Don’t be afraid to bloom to full capacity. This world needs the beauty and fragrance of YOU! 

kw

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