I was making retreat at St. Joseph Retreat Center in Cohasset, Massachusetts a few years back. As I walked in the yard that first day, I came upon this:
It was a purple petunia growing in the crack between the asphalt and the concrete. It made me stop. Stooping down to get a better look at it, I found myself saying to the little plant, “What in the world are you doing here?” I looked around. Sure enough, there were some petunias growing alongside a building nearby–but they were about 20 feet away! I quickly deduced that some of the seeds from those plants were carried here–perhaps by the wind. A few probably landed in this crack. Somehow one of those seeds found soil, water, and sun enough to root, grow, and eventually blossom. Amazing! I took a few pictures of the petunia. I wanted to remember her for the lesson she taught me. What lesson?
Sometimes we think we need highly favorable conditions to thrive. We bemoan the fact that our parents were imperfect, our siblings were non-supportive, and our education was sub par. We say things like this: If only I had married Felix instead of Dan…If only I had joined the Dominicans instead of the Notre Dames…If only I were younger (older), taller (shorter), better looking, more intelligent, richer…If only…If only…If only. In other words, we assume if conditions were better, we would be better too–and happier.
Or we think we need ideal conditions to live our life of faith well. If only the world were a safer place… If only countries worked together more…If only our church had better leaders…If only people weren’t so selfish…If only I could pray like the saints…If only I could find the right spiritual book…If only I had more time…If only…If only…If only. We pine for a life we don’t have instead of embracing the life we’ve been given.
This petunia embraced the life it was given. When its seed was blown to this crack, it didn’t bewail its placement by crying, “Look where I landed! I’m so unlucky!” Instead, it made the best of its circumstances. It held its ground and made use of the nutrients it found in its little sliver of soil. It received the rains gratefully and put its roots down deep between the asphalt and concrete. It welcomed the sun’s rays each day and eventually it even blossomed.
None of us has ideal circumstances. We all struggle with adversity. We all lack some things that might seem essential for growth and development. In addition, we live and work with imperfect people–and they with imperfect us. But if we are open and attentive to our life, we will see that God is present in it–supplying the soil we need to take root. And God is providing the nutrients we need to grow too. And God is bestowing enough sun and rain for us to blossom. Lucky us!
Have you ever felt like this purple petunia?
(Note: My next blog will be posted on March 30, Holy Saturday.)