Flowers and Concrete
Currently, I live in one of those neighborhoods where the neighbors are extremely conscientious about the appearance of the streets and sidewalks. Everyone keeps their yards neat, the sidewalks clear and we all chip in for annual neighborhood flowers.
The sidewalks in my former neighborhood, however, were hazardous—old, cracked, and covered with restaurant fliers and empty beer cans. There were so many broken concrete pieces that whenever I would put the kids in the stroller to go for a walk, they’d all risk whiplash.
Sometimes, our lives feel like the cracked sidewalk—nothing is stable or easy or predictable. The journey feels a little messy, frustrating and unknown. We want a smooth path of recovery. We don’t want to have to navigate the pain, loss and feelings of despair.
We want life to be easier than it sometimes is.
But pain still comes. We still face rejection and blocked goals and the loss of control.
One day, while walking on the broken, messed-up sidewalk in front of my old house, I tripped over a large crack. Looking down at the concrete, I saw something growing. A red flower had pushed its way through the concrete. I began to notice the other breaks in the sidewalk—each one of the cracks, large or small was filled with some kind of plant-life. Grass was growing, wild flowers flourished—the cracks had become home to tiny gardens.
Whiplash-producing sidewalks are not necessarily ideal, but they make room for a different kind of growth than sidewalks without any bumps. Somehow, even in imperfect circumstances, life is still pushing through. Grass shoots up. Flowers still grow.
We may not have chosen our circumstances, but we’re also not limited by them. Our lives and relationships may not be what we desire them to be, but hope and change and peace can stubbornly push through.
The goal of our recovery and our lives is not to fix every crack or smooth out the rough edges. The goal is to be open to the grace and new beginnings God is willing to give.
There’s no limit to what God is able to do with the cracks and bumps and jagged edges of our lives.
The God of our understanding doesn’t need smooth pathways in order to bring about the deep, life-giving peace we desperately need.
Don’t put limits on what can happen when you turn your life and will over to the care of God.
There is a saying from the Bible that reads, “Don’t keep holding on to the former things. Don’t let them mark your life. Stop living in what’s already happened. Look right here. I’m doing something new. It’s springing up. Don’t miss it.”
Don’t focus your energy on securing a smooth path—instead, be open to the life, serenity and love that spring up when you least expect it.
The Divine is still at work. Love is healing wounds, hope is reviving despair, and flowers can break through concrete.
–Chris Gibson, MDiv