Still lingering in my mind’s eye are the dozen or more wildly exotic cactus varieties that I wandered among on the campus of the retreat center last week while in Arizona. Coming from the wet and humid East Coast, these plants populating the sandy earth looked to me so improbable they could have come straight from a surrealist’s flight of imagination. They were yet another reminder of God’s sense of humor and his enduring love of creation’s variety. I’m sure he smiles every time he looks on those succulents, persevering through harsh desert climates, some living upwards of 300 years. Even the root systems of cacti are greatly varied, some with taproots penetrating deep into the ground in search of water, while others stay shallow, close to the surface to soak up every drop of precious rainwater that falls. The ones that depend on bees for pollination have to attract their reproduction helpers from sites many miles away, luring them by producing brightly hued flowers and churning out sweet and pungent scents. Fascinating plants ingeniously crafted by their fascinatingly original Creator God.
While we have slightly shorter lifespans than these specimens, we are, nonetheless, crazily well equipped (aka Grace-gifted) to thrive in any and every circumstance and cultural environment in which we find ourselves. Humanity, globally, exhibits a stunning array of gifts and cultures and tastes and personalities. We may not think of ourselves as wildly exotic, but that adjective surely has its place somewhere along the spectrum. (We may even have a name or two of those who come to mind if we stop to think for a moment.) The mantle, or commissioning, that has been placed on our shoulders, that of living out loud the life of Jesus, obeying his teachings, accepting his shared authority, offering Kingdom hospitality and welcome to people of all colors and creeds and cultures, comes with this wondrous assurance: “Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:29,30 MSG. (Maybe Matthew should have repeated those words as his closing comment at the end of Chapter 28!) If gnarly, knobby, spikey, hypnotizing cactus formations are given everything they need for sustainability, growth, and productivity, how much more do we, created in the image of God, and loved and adopted by him, receive teeming, abundant provision from his wastefully extravagant hand! Jehovah Jireh, indeed! (Genesis 22:14) PD