The Tenacity of Orchids

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The Orchid Flower

Just as I wonder
whether it’s going to die,
the orchid blossoms
and I can’t explain why it
moves my heart…

Poem by Sam Hamill.

Read the full poem here:

I don’t have a green thumb. I wistfully daydream about having one, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I’m OK with this deficit. Gardening isn’t a pleasurable passtime for me, but a labor akin to toilet scrubbing.

My birthday is in May (just a few days ago, so you still have plenty of time to send gifts and money). Several years ago, my mother-in-law asked me what I wanted for my birthday. Before I tell you my answer, let me paint a picture of her for you: She wears shirts that say things like, “Plays with Dirt” and “Bloom where you’re planted.” And my father-in-law built a greenhouse for her so she could plant and play with her flowers in the winter. Wicked’s Elphaba envies the greenness of my mother-in-law’s thumb. So when she asked the heartfelt question about my birthday present, I answered honestly: “I’d love if you would plant flowers in my yard.” So for the past ten years, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing beautiful flowers without the pain of planting them myself. And she enjoys the planting. So I call it a win-win.

All of this sets the stage for the remarkable tenacity of an orchid. Two years ago, my son spied the flowerpot next to a garbage can. A friend who was moving decided to pitch the plant rather than try to keep it alive in the transfer. My son begged to keep it. After making sure the bar was set low on the likelihood of this plant’s survival, I agreed to let him take it home.

This flower has not stopped blooming for twenty-four months. Even when we moved. In winter. And it stayed in the car overnight. Even when we forget to water it. Or pinch the dead leaves. Even when a three-foot-tall K-Nex rollercoaster towers over the plant. This orchid is persistent. Its blooms are beautiful pinks with streaks of magenta climbing up the petal. My heart skips a little when I happen upon the flower, the branch heavy with these delicate wonders, and I’m reminded of how God works in my own life. Even when I fail to do the right things, forget to pray, play hooky from church, turn away from an opportunity to be kind and gracious, God still is there. Even when I haven’t properly nourished my faith, the seed, the beauty of a magnificent God, lives on, growing and flourishing, sometimes despite me.

The flowers in my yard are wonderful, but it’s the orchid that gives me hope.

Even if you’ve only been able to successfully grow mold, try planting something this year. Maybe a pumpkin seed or a tomato plant. A tree or bush. Maybe a flower with rich, bold colors. Think about how faith is growing within you too. And how you might plant the seed in someone else.


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