Material things

My mom placed a bunch of white lilac blossoms in my hands, and I flew back in time. 

May 2008. I was an ignorant and anti-cosmopolitan bride whose wedding plans were never going to be featured in The Knot. 

One thing I got right (besides the groom) was asking my friend Carrie to do last-minute coordinating. A day or two before the ceremony, she went to a plant wholesaler in search of stage decorations. 

I got a text message with a grainy photo (remember, year 2008). 

“Lilac,” it said. “Want it?” 

“Yes!” I replied. 

When I walked into the church, before my eyes noticed anything, a wonderful fragrance rushed through me. Those two white-flowering topiaries were radiating sweetness all the way from the other side of the building. 

We flew to Maine the day after the wedding. I learned that Maine in June means lilacs in bloom. The scent from the purpled shrubs wafted into our rental car on the very first drive. It seemed like the two plants that had flanked the altar had been doorposts to the future. 

How does an undisciplined, unsophisticated twenty-two year-old manage to pull off such a beautiful thing? 

She doesn’t. She didn’t. It was all pure gift. A token, a mere token, of grace. God’s grace, like the fragrance of those lilacs, is aggressive. It is beautiful. It is overwhelming. It is not your plan. 

My parents planted those lilacs where they are still flourishing in the northeast Ohio climate. They drove down a couple weeks ago with the cuttings that my mom handed to me. 

Again, the fragrance was instantly everywhere. It nourished me like the honey brightened Jonathan. It brought me backwards over the thirsty places we’ve walked since the wedding, to that place of profound awareness of God’s goodwill toward us. It reminded me that the same goodwill is here today, not because of what I am, but because of who he is and what he’s done. 

“Gift exchanges,” some people say, “all a bunch of materialism.” 

Well, we’re material creatures. God uses material things, like lilacs and weddings, as parables of his love. The lilacs—and marriages, for that matter—will pass away. “But his love endures forever.”

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