Beauty from Chaos (Ros' Blog)
I’m writing this four days before my wedding. I’ve been going round my house getting everything ready for my new husband to move in after we’re married, as we’re going to be living here temporarily. I’ve lived here on my own for most of the last nine years, and everything in the house has been decorated to my liking. I’ve been trying to look at it through his eyes and judge how he might see it and whether it will suit his taste!
There’s one theme that recurs in several parts of the house. Over the stairs is a photo of a poppy field. In the garden the last of this summer’s poppies are still flowering. In the bedroom, the curtains have poppies on them, and there’s another photo which a friend gave me when I moved in with a close-up of poppies and the caption, “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Job 37.14”
I’ve always had a great fondness for poppies. It’s not just their stunning beauty, the way they brighten up a roadside verge, or that their name in French is so delightful – coquelicots! But I love the way they rise out of chaos, imposing order and beauty on it.
They are cultivated as garden ornamentals, and some varieties as a source of the drug opium. In fact humans have been cultivating poppies for 7,000 years, going right back to Mesopotamia in the early days of the Bible. They have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and doctors of that time would use their seeds as a painkiller. But it’s the wild varieties that fascinate me. Although modern methods of agriculture are causing a decline in the common poppy, in Roman times it was seen as a symbol of fertility because it grew in the crop fields and it was used to celebrate the gods.
Poppy seeds lie dormant in the ground for a long time and often germinate only after a sudden disturbance of the soil. This is why they are seen springing up along the verges of newly built roads. The best known example of this is of course the poppies that sprang up all over the battlefields of the Somme, their poignant red colour a stark reminder of what had taken place on that soil.
But to me this is also a beautiful parable of the way God so often works in our lives. How often is it a sudden trauma – an accident or sudden illness resulting in disability, for example, or, as in my case, giving birth to a disabled child, which becomes the very area of our lives where God brings beauty and flourishing? While we are going through the experience, it can seem painful, disruptive and even hopeless. One of my friends has a word for this – she calls it a lifequake. It’s a good description of the disturbance these events cause in our lives. I look back at the distress of the early days of my daughter’s life, the daily struggle to keep her alive when she first came home from hospital, the despair at the gloomy prognosis we were given by doctors who didn’t tell us (or perhaps had never noticed) how much joy and delight such a child also brings to their family.
Yet it was out of that explosive disruption to the soil of my life that seeds of spiritual growth began to germinate and I started to put my roots down into God. The blooms that came from it – a depth of relationship with God I had never previously known; the deflection from the previous self-centredness of my life; the desire to use my experiences to help other people; the testimony I have of God’s wonderful grace and joy in hard times – all came directly as a result of those troubled times and have made my life so much richer.
So here’s the main reason why I love poppies – not simply for their beauty and the rich colour they add to our countryside, but because they are a reminder of how God uses even the hardest of times to bring glory, richness and beauty into our lives. Maybe you have a testimony you’d like to share with us of how God has worked in your life through hard times. You can do so by emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org. But don’t expect an immediate reply; I’m going on honeymoon for a while.