I've been watching my yard closely over the past few days.
It's a regular spring ritual for me. I'm hoping for lush, green grass even as I dread the intrusion of those confounded yellow flowers. So far, things look pretty good this year, but I know that I can't relax. I am well aware that the dandelions can appear in an instant . . . and I am well aware that they probably will. All the same, I act as if my watchful gaze will prevent their annual invasion.
Out by the road, I have some other yellow flowers. These flowers, however, are different. I actually planted them and I enjoy seeing them grow. They are called daffodils and they herald, I'm told, the arrival of spring. I once believed that spring started around March 21, but that was before I moved to Michigan. Now I know that spring starts whenever it wants to, and I know that it can come and go in an instant.
What intrigues me tonight is the difference between those two yellow flowers. One is dismissed as a weed and the other one is cherished for its beauty. One is loved and desired and the other gets blamed for ruining a lawn. I'm sure that it could be done, but I've never heard of anyone intentionally planting dandelions. On the other hand, daffodils would never simply grow on their own.
I'm trying to imagine how great I would feel about my yard if I could value both the dandelions and the daffodils. At least as far as my lawn goes, I'd be a happy man.
A change in perspective makes everything look different.
Two years ago this week, I was wrapping up an adventure in Ethiopia. I didn't know at that time what was about to happen. From that two-year-ago vantage point, I was about to embark on the most grievous two years of my life. I would travel to depths that I could not have imagined. Many days, I wondered if I would even make it to the next day. From that place, I was about to enter two years of dandelions.
Today, however, I look back on the last two years and it looks completely different. Today, I realize that those dark valleys were shaping, enriching, even life-giving. Today, I see that my wilderness was a great place for solitude and growth and healing. Today, I celebrate beginnings that I would have dismissed as impossible just two years ago. Looking back today, I see lots of daffodils.
So what do I make of these past two years? Well, they were filled with the lowest lows and they were filled with the highest highs. They were terrible and they were wonderful. To be sure, I'd rather not go through the last two years again - ever. At the same time, as hard as it was, I was remade and I found life again. I wouldn't give that up for anything. It was beautiful, productive suffering. And it turned out to be a really good thing for me.
I think it's easy for us to believe that nothing ever changes.
And then we look up one day and we realize that everything is completely different. And we had no idea that anything was even happening.
I don't know exactly why things happen the way they do. I'm not sure exactly why life can be so hard.
But one thing I've learned. God doesn't waste anything. He uses even our deepest heartache for his purposes. And he uses even our deepest heartache to change us in ways that we'd be wise to embrace. It doesn't really matter who intended it for evil; God fully intends to use it - whatever it is - for good.
All that to say that tonight I'm not sure which yellow flowers are the most beautiful - the ones that I planted or the ones that are creeping in on their own.
I think I'll just enjoy them all.