The Parable of the Peonies
Three peonies. All transplanted from a garden lovingly tended by my mother in another time and place, brought to their new home in my garden years ago. Precious blooms, memories of my mother’s love & her gift of gardening.
Today, we unearth the plants again, years after such a careful planting, to bring them to a new home. We are moving and these are the only plants from my garden to make the trip. Treasured blooms, cherished memories.
The first plant brings creamy white blooms and bright pink stamens come summer. Delicate petals hinting of the Orient in structure and scent. Exotic. Beautiful. As a grown woman, these are my favorite. Shovel hits earth. Around and around the plant I move, in an attempt to loosen roots from dark soil. Soon it gives way, ready for its new home.
The second plant, my childhood favorite. Enormous blooms of pale pink like overflowing scoops of strawberry ice cream. Carried on an early summer breeze, the scent would waft through the window of my little girl bedroom. Summer arrived the moment I’d see their pregnant buds from my window. Once again, I put shovel to November soil and soon, it too, gives way.
The last peony sits exposed on a hill overlooking our meadow-like yard surrounded by trees. Out of these woods, animals seek refuge and sustenance. This plant stands as if on permanent watch over the grassy reserve. In full bloom, this one appears smaller than the others. Brilliant pink blooms. I bring shovel to soil and begin to prod the structure comfortably nestled in the earth. One time around, another, another and yet another. Unable to free it, I call my son for help. He leans into his work and begins to circle, moving shovel back and forth. Again and again he circles, convincing roots that don’t want to loosen. And then, a break. One last time around and finally, it too, is unearthed.
We stand observing each plant now exposed on the grass. The first two with leaves more plentiful than the last. But the roots…good roots, but more slender, shallower, smaller.
Next to them lay the last peony. It has fewer leaves and appears smaller in plant structure. But these roots…they surprise us with their width, depth and fullness. So many roots…many more than on the first two.
A spiritual lesson lay at our feet and I accept it joyfully and share it with my son and young daughter.
The plant to withstand the wind and rain, all of the bluster of the harsh elements, with no shelter…its roots grew deep. Its roots grew strong…much stronger than the first two.
My son nods in agreement. At fourteen, he already knows.
It’s the one who goes through the storms of life, withstanding all of the harshness and winds of difficulty, the one who stands their ground no matter how small a plot by leaning into the One who created all in a spectacular act of love…this is the one whose roots of faith grow deep and strong, in the unseen places of the heart.
And when unearthed, these roots show forth hearty. A spiritual life in full bloom, made stronger to withstand coming storms.
And I’m reminded that we, like Paul, can glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
These present trials…niggling, obstinate, and gripping are producing in us good things…as our roots grow strong. Your roots…my roots.
We show forth strength and beauty, as we withstand the storms, clutching the One who loves us more than any other.