I Know What It Feels Like to Be a Painted Flower

I Know What It Feels Like to Be a Painted Flower April 20, 2018

It seems like spring might finally be here. The daffodils are in full bloom, the sun is shining, and for the first time in ages, there’s not a flake of snow in the forecast. 2017 was our first year in our new house, and we were delighted to discover that the previous owners had planted the gardens and trees such that there’s almost always something in bloom between March and October. The picture above is one of the daffodils from our front walkway.

In my devotional reading this morning, I came across a beautiful passage from Arcana Coelestia comparing the goodness that comes from God to a flower in bloom. By contrast, the passage says, goodness from ourselves is like the painting of a flower on a clay tablet. (Why a clay tablet I don’t know; maybe that was a popular item in 18th-century Europe?)

Here’s an excerpt:

The good which is from the Lord has in it what is Divine; thus it is good from its inmost and first being; whereas the good which is from man is not good, because from himself man is nothing but evil…. The case herein is like that of flowers painted upon a tablet, as compared with the flowers that grow in a garden. These flowers are beautiful from their inmosts; for the more interiorly they are opened, the more beautiful they are; whereas the flowers painted on a tablet are beautiful only in the outward form, and as to the inward one are nothing but mud and a mixture of earthy particles lying in confusion, as the Lord also teaches when He says of the lilies of the field that “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:29). (Arcana Coelestia §8480

I find the imagery at once convicting and beautiful. I know pretty well what it feels like to be a painted flower – to do something good while reflecting on just how great I am for doing it, how much gratitude I deserve for it. But I’ve had glimpses, too, of goodness that felt like a gift; and to recognize that this kind of good contains the depth and texture and life of a living flower in bloom – that’s pretty awesome.

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