During one of my last autumn walks this year, I came across an open field on the other side of the woods behind our house. It was close to the elementary school, and the strong scent in the air clued me in to the fact that it had recently been mowed. Well, that, the large stretch of short grass, and the absence of the wildflowers that had been there just the day before.
I felt a pang of disappointment as I took it all in, so barren and empty. I missed the wild wonder that had reigned. It was gone now, and so it was over this barren field that I watched the sun dip down and bid the world goodnight.
As I stood from where I’d been seated, one of the last glimmers of daylight touched something I’d missed in the moments before. One lone flower out in the very middle of the field. It was small, purple, and swayed ever so gently in the evening breeze. I walked out to it, knelt down, and took in it’s small charm. A tiny wildflower in a barren field.
It would be silly to say that in the moments since I had gotten arrived, this little wildflower had shot up from the ground. It had been there for a few days at least, only I had never noticed it because it was surrounded by so many like it. Where there is an abundance of beauty, it can be harder to notice it all, to truly drink it in and savor it.
I’ve found there are two common ways to experience beauty. We take it all in at once and are overwhelmed by it’s magnificence and splendor, or we see one small representation, and in the absence of abundance, we drink more deeply the hope it’s lone presence brings.
In the barren fields of life, God’s precious nearness is the flower I have seen standing in the center. Unchanged, though all else had shifted. William Cowper was not mistaken. “The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.”
When one by one, comforts and treasures slipped through my fingers, He remained. He was not absent when those things were present, only I did not see Him as clearly. I did not stop in my tracks when I gazed over the fields of life and saw His faithfulness. I was overwhelmed by the abundance of His gifts, which is one of the ways we taste His goodness. But perhaps one of the more profound ways, is when those gifts are gone, and as we scan the field grieving their absence, we see that bulwark of hope in the distance. The unmoving, unchanging, ever glorious and beautiful nearness of the God who loves His children.
His nearness and presence are no less when the fields are in full bloom and armies of wildflowers dance in the sunlight. It is woven in and through His gifts, and we taste it, we are overwhelmed by it. But when those things are gone, and only He remains, we know the sufficiency of His nearness, the completeness of His nearness, the beauty of His nearness in a way we could not otherwise.
In lush green pastures and beside the crystal blue waters, we shall not want, for the Lord is our Shepherd. (Psalm 23) And when we traverse the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil, for that same Shepherd is with us. It is always the nearness of God that sustains and comforts our hearts, whether in wonder at the abundant gifts it brings, or it’s steadfast presence when all else drifts away.
Perhaps, even amidst the pain, it is for our good that the fields are mowed down and our eyes given a chance to narrow in on what remains: the faithful presence of our good and gracious Father. The beauty that all other beauty dimly represents. The gift all other gifts point towards.
He withholds no good thing from His children. This being true, we can rest knowing that the singular beauty of His nearness in our sorrow is, at certain times during our life, the good gift He desires to give us.
He is the beauty in the barren fields of life, and He is enough.