This summer, I will snatch those hydrangea blooms before they’re spent, pluck them at their peak, and set them on my table in a pitcher, just like they do on Pinterest, Instagram, and HGTV.
Clippers in hand, I don’t step outside looking to be spellbound, but is it possible to be ravished by a bush? Enraptured? Dazzled into reverence?
Perhaps that word—reverence—is too much. I wouldn’t want to use it amiss. But how can I cull among this lushness, cupping blooms brimming in my palms, and not be a little openmouthed at the opulence, at the openhandedness of our God?
Because to me it seems almost profligate, this profusion. A bit much for my plain patch of suburbia. My home is no landscaped palace, after all. But beauty blooming in a corner always has a tale to tell, and if the heavens declare God’s glory, then these hydrangeas do too, their heaping heads mounded and moist with the morning, iridescent with the dew.
Clippers poised at a woody stem, my mind suddenly goes to math. In the divine economy, everything has an exponent. All things are raised to the power of plenty: Seeds scatter and swell in the soil, spring up, shoot up, and spread.
My imagination conjures burgeoning blossoms with superscript numerals multiplied en masse over a summer landscape. Gracing gardens and walks and tabletops and pitchers. Filling hands and arms and rooms and lives.
After Christ multiplied the loaves and the fishes and fed the five thousand, he said: “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So, surely our Prince of Peace is no profligate. All his extravagances are signs. His love is a cup running over. And it is water turning to wine.
My bounty is carefully arranged in a blue and white pitcher and set on our table at last. The petals are royal purple, the tabletop charmingly beat-up, its wood scarred and nicked and grooved. Pinterest perfect? Almost. But when the early sun slants through my slider, it suggests something more than an Instagram shot, and I pause before snapping the photo.
The cross was rough-hewn and splintery, and the Savior who once carried it bears the scars of it forever—punctures and piercings for our sin. This, I think, is far more than a motif for Pinterest, so now I’m standing in my kitchen meditating on his death and resurrection—longing for valleys lifted, ruins redeemed, and skewed ways made smooth.
And why not?
Aren’t these blooms on my table a kind of miracle? A sign? Elizabeth Barrett Browning was onto something, I think, when she wrote: “Earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees takes off his shoes…”
Sometimes my husband and I will rise early in the morning to plant a bush or make a border, to mulch a bed or mend a mess. Nature plus companionship plus the satisfaction of a job well done almost always equals bliss. And somehow, it’s more than just simple addition. It’s that divine math again: our minutes together made munificent by an invisible grace.
My husband and I joked once that this was our Garden of Eden effect. And science, it seems, is on our side. Because if life began in a garden, it’s no surprise what they’re discovering now about the soil. How it stimulates serotonin and makes you feel less stressed and depressed. Dirt is leavened with delight apparently. And digging among the hollyhocks and hydrangeas can make for a paradisal pleasure.
Did God, I wonder, leave an Edenic echo in the elements of the soil? A “magic” in the microbes, if you’ll permit me that word?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s tears flowed into the earth like a blessing soaked right into the soil, his agony bled into the ground for our good. Gardens seem to mean something to him. Isn’t that where Mary first saw him on resurrection morning, even mistaking him for the gardener?
“The land that was laid waste has become like the Garden of Eden,” the prophet Ezekiel wrote.
I run my fingers under the cool flow of the faucet as the sun streams luminous through my kitchen window. And I’m a little radiant in this moment because maybe my earlier rapture was no exaggeration. My hydrangeas are holy, in their way. Reverence was the right word all along. And like Moses, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I need to take off my shoes.
Jesus, Gardener, tend the landscape of my heart. Cultivate the soil of my soul. Make my waste places flourish with your life and freshness.
I close the tap and dry my hands slowly… Nothing will be wasted, I think. Not a minute. Not a moment. Not a bloom.