'24How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all….'
There can be few men who have never given a bunch of flowers at some point in time to someone that they love. What do the flowers say? Whatever the giver desires perhaps; but within that gift is surely the appreciation of beauty, both of the flowers and the one to whom they are given.
In the UK during the month of November a particular flower, the poppy becomes the focus of a nation's thoughts. This time it is remembrance, not of beauty but of horror - of wars fought, battles won and lost and lives sacrificed for the cause of freedom.
Flowers, of course, were created for neither of these purposes, but simply to be the means through which reproduction of might take place and the species continue through to another generation - their colour and complexity merely the means by which a pollinating insect or bird might be attracted, and the reproductive process initiated. I say 'merely' but of course the word is wholly inappropriate when you take into account the sheer wonder of the variety of different tactics employed by plant and pollinator, and the delicate balance between the two.
Plants display many wonderful adaptations and mechanisms developed for the purpose of aiding pollination. Some are entirely dependent upon bees and other insects, their flowers often possessing special features that attract insects like colour, odour, and nectar. Others are dependent upon mammals such as bats or hummingbirds. Or it may be the wind that facilitates pollen transfer (Imagine pollen floating for hundreds of miles on the wind currents of the upper atmosphere before reaching a receptive stigma). Then there are plants which are so designed that only the pollen from their own stamens can reach their stigma.
Often a plant and pollinator evolve together, adapting to changes in each other to improve their own survival. The US National Honey Board states that 'bees may travel as far as 55,000 miles and visit more than 2 million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just 1 pound of honey'
The picking of flowers is referred to in the Bible only once: "My beloved has gone to his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies" (Song of Songs 6:2). Jesus knew how to connect with the people to whom he was talking, particularly with the use of picture language "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Of all plants in the Bible, the lily is most famous and the one about which there has been the most differences of opinion. Modern scholars believe that at least five or six kinds of plants are referred to by that name. It is thought that one of them was actually yellow flag, an iris common in the Holy Land. Hebrew botanists have argued that the "lilies of the field" were actually the chamomile, a small daisy-like plant. The lilies in the Song of Solomon may well have been the hyacinth with deep blue, fragrant flowers, native in Palestine and Lebanon.
So having established how wonderful, and indeed useful, are the flowers that we so often take for granted in our gardens and in the countryside, what can we gain by looking at them through the lens of our spiritual eye?
Let's consider ourselves as individuals, created (we believe) by God and (again, the Bible tells us) in the image of God. That indicates that our lives radiate elements of God's beauty and creativity. You need to believe that!
We bear the watermark of our Creator, and just as we might look at the shear complexity and beauty of an orchid's flower in wonderment so we must do the same when we consider our own lives.
We are also created fit for purpose, though some, including I may say many Christians, struggle to come to terms with this. It's not just a question of self worth. We are bombarded with advertisements, news reports and documentaries aimed at radically altering both our lifestyle and physical appearance - and so rarely told that the differences between you and I are intended and part of the rich tapestry of God's created world.
We find fulfilment and happiness when we can step through the world view, see ourselves as God intended and rest content with that. I am reminded of the story about Oliver Cromwell who, when sitting for an artist insisted that rather than present his portrait as 'perfect' in appearance on the canvas, which was the accepted practice of the day, that he be painted as he really was - warts and all.