What the Lilac Preached to Me

The man at Home Depot said I had to choose between having kids and having a yard.

I have five kids. And our friends next door have five kids. Inner-city living means that most of the biking, digging, running, building, light saber wars and ball games occur inside the fenced confines of our little yard.

Choice made, I guess.

Spring’s advent has resurrected my fantasy of a lush, well-kept lawn with trimmed bushes, weeded flowerbeds, and drainpipes that don’t get stamped flat. That’s what I want: beauty and order and peace.

But my yard is not beautiful and orderly. Being long on kids and short on time, it’s a mess. About 30% of my lawn is now dirt. There are toys scattered around, winter-blown trash in the corners, overgrown hedges, weedy beds, and a neglected garden. There are holes under the front fence dug by a dog pining for freedom. There’s a planter the dog broke by the front step still sitting in two pieces. That’s what I’m used to seeing: my yard’s deficiencies.

Yesterday during my prayer time I was walking through my disordered yard, feeling my grumbling rising, when suddenly I saw it all as a picture of me. . . .

I long for a well-kept life full of beauty and order and peace. But I have trash in my corners, weeds in my garden, and overgrown bushes. Much activity has left barren places. I’m not beautiful and orderly. I’m in many ways a mess. That’s what I’m used to seeing: my deficiencies. My little gratitude betrays how little of grace I see.

And then I looked closely at a lilac flower just coming into bloom. And it preached to me: “Consider the [lilacs], how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:27). Have you only eyes to see your ugly sin and defects? Can you not see the God-made beautiful things that are growing? Look for grace, Jon!

Then I looked at a barren spot and it was teaming with ant-life. And it preached to me: “Go to the ant… consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). Not all barrenness is lifeless. Look closely. There is wisdom to be found.

Then I looked at the sun soaking my city with life-giving light. And it preached to me: “In your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Though the Light of the world exposes our evil (John 3:20), the real reason he came is to give you “the light of life” (John 8:12). Having your ugliness exposed is itself a gift that you might stop looking for beauty in the wrong places. Turn your eyes on the one true Beauty. Take heart! He will complete the good work he began in you (Philippians 1:6) and make “everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

What are you seeing today? (Clue: your gratitude or grumbling will tell you.) Look! Look for grace!