Walk out in to the fields and look.
They do not labor yet they are clothed in splendor.
Calm your soul.
Surrender your worry.
There is a reflection in Matthew’s gospel with this invitation not to worry – to consider the lilies, reflect on their beauty and see how they are cared for. This message drew me in. This year has brought so much personal, communal, global and political unrest. We live in a culture marked by fear and anxiety. It is difficult not to worry.
Calla lilies often symbolize rebirth, resurrection, new beginnings and overcoming challenges. They can survive frosts and even a cut flower can re-grow in a vase. They invite us to focus on beauty and to remember that they will return, even though they disappear for a season.
This spring calla lilies began to bloom in our back yard and they are glorious! We didn’t plant them, they just appeared… like a gift. Perfect! I set out to paint a series “considering the lilies”. I had great plans to work slowly and contemplatively, to simplify me life and my work. I studied the simplicity of Georgia O’Keefe’s work. I spent time in silence. I imagined my work like some sort of silent retreat with art supplies among flowers and hummingbirds (which is how many people mistakenly imagine an artist working).
And then… life happened.
Important events and relationships took the forefront. Precious time with a dear family member moving away; another dear family member moving near. There were deaths and news of terminal illness in the family. A new baby was born. There was a wedding and a family reunion. There were new health considerations and financial strain. All things common to the human experience, but inconvenient for my expectations. It seems the full spectrum of life engulfed me in a matter of months, deserving full attention, care, grief and love.
And then… the lilies.
I needed to work faster. My inner life seemed to move in the opposite direction with anxiety reaching new levels. This was not the plan! I was rushed and disconnected and felt like a total hypocrite. But as I finished up the final paintings it occurred to me that this wasn’t about me achieving perfect peace. I remembered that these words in Mathew’s gospel were not given on a spiritual retreat in a time of peace, but to a people experiencing difficulties, economic strain and occupation by a foreign power.
This message not to worry is not about handling difficulties perfectly, or good feelings, or judging ourselves if we haven’t “arrived”. It is more of a lifelong invitation to continually step out of worry and grow into trust.