Concrete Garden

Walking through the park this afternoon, I came across this flower.

flower1

What a perfect thing to find in Glenwood, I thought.  A picture of our kids – beautiful creations pushing their way through  the harsh pavement surrounding them.  We see blossoms and get excited.  Sure, there are petals missing, but they’re alive, looking towards the sun.

When you’re tending a concrete garden, you celebrate the individual successes.  They often feel far and few between.

As I stood above the flower, though, my focus broadened.  I noticed this little survivor was not alone.

flower2

Each little flower (weed, really) was unique.  Some had more blossoms than others, some perfect, others battered.  Up close, each was a beauty to behold.  Compared to others, some might seem less impressive.  Viewed together, I almost saw a band of brothers.  Separated by pavement, but seeming to encourage each other on – you’re not alone, you can make it.  

How many seeds had been planted, but didn’t make it?  What had these little ones endured on their journey so far?  How were they still standing so proud, in the middle of a cracked asphalt sidewalk where they were trampled daily?

As my gaze widened still, I was overwhelmed.

flower3

The flower I originally saw as an anomaly, an exceptionally strong life surrounded by desolation, was in fact not rare at all.  Despite their circumstances, these little plants were determined to live.  To see the sun.  To display beauty and character.

And so it is in the city. Despite the harsh circumstances of poverty, single­parent homes, under­employment, drug trafficking, prostitution and more, life springs up. Like the flowers, we can’t appreciate the beauty of each person until we step in close. Close enough to see the missing petals. Close enough for them to see our torn leaves. Close enough to embrace the incredible life before us. And then, slowly stepping back, we are able to appreciate the beauty of the creation in front of us. We realize we are surrounded by a sea of precious souls, pushing through systems designed to keep them down, seeking the affirmation of the One who created them perfectly beautiful.

Lord, let it be so.  May we see each other closely, and may we stand in awe at the restorative work you orchestrate every day.  When the proof of your work seems hard to find, broaden our gaze to see the fields of flowers surrounding us.

flowers_all