Sunday, June 06, 2010

Steel Magnolias

Some time ago now I was at a prayer gathering thing (Encounter...I've written about it before) and while I was being prayed over some one siad they kept hearing the phrase "Steel Magnolias"  so they wrote it down and I tucked it away.  At the time, I didn't even know what a magnolia was.  I looked it up and learned that it was a type of flowering a tree and I learned that there was a movie called "Steel Magnolias".  A friend of mine even owned a copy of the movie but told me I wouldn't like it, so I haven't ever watched it.  I just know it exists. 
A short time later I was walking around campus and found myself a magnolia tree.  It was in full bloom and very pretty.  I got close to investigate it further and took a picture of one of it's blossoms.  See?

Then I noticed a single petal lying on the ground, all by itself.  Just like this:

I carried those images with me in my mind (and on my hard drive) for quite some time.  I knew they were reminding me of something, but I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.  I finally figured it out.  It was reminding me of the body of Christ.  Romans 12:5 says:  "so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."   It also reminded me of some verses from Ecclesiastes, chapter 4, verses 9-12 "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." 
The magnolia blossom was most beautiful when all the petals were together, in community with each other.  Although the petal on the grass was beautiful, it was not as beautiful as it was before it fell.  I think we humans are a lot like that as well.  On our own we are still beautiful.  We still have value.  We are still loveable, but that beauty increases when we are in community with others.  We were not created to live alone.  After G-d created Adam, he created Eve because it was not good for man to be alone. 
I tried to pick a magnolia blossom so that I could get a closer look at it, but as soon as I had it off the tree it fell apart in my hands.  It made me a little sad because then I couldn't bring the beautiful blossom back to my room with me.  That reminds me of another set of verses, these ones from from John 4, verses 4-9: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
The magnolia blossom could not be a blossom apart from the tree...well, it could be, it just couldn't hold itself together.  I don't believe that we can exist very well apart from G-d...we'd still exist, but we wouldn't really have it together.  The blossom needed the tree and the community of the other petals in order to exist in it's form of greatest beauty.   Humans need both our tree (G-d) and the community to exist in our greatest beauty.
I know I sometimes try to do things on my own.  I can do's just not the way I was created nor the way that I can function to my greatest potential and beauty.  The petals on the mangolia are each very delicate, but when they come together, they are steel.

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