Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Miracle of the Carnation

          I grew up in a church that believed in miracles. Not just the long-ago miracles of the Bible, but real-life, everyday miracles, from the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead to the finding of a parking space right in front of the drugstore with time still left on the parking meter. Members of my church would often tell you about the miracles they, themselves, personally had experienced.
          My church which believed in miracles happening every day right in our very midst also had a bit of a cult of motherhood, if a church as relentlessly Protestant as we were can be said to have a cult at all. Certainly there were few outward signs. No chapels, no statues, no candles. We did not Go In For Those Things. This limited us pretty much to the predictable mention in sermons of the saintliness of the speaker's mother. Generally these mentions thickened around Mother's Day, the culmination of our celebration of motherhood, when in a ceremony that resembled nothing so much as the passing out of agendas at a business meeting, flats of petunias were hauled into the church and a plant was doled out to each mother present.
          The Mother's Day celebration I remember most keenly happened when I was in grade school. I was at Sunday School (it was there, inexplicably, rather than during the main service, that the Passing of the Petunias occurred) without an idea in my head that it was Mother's Day,* and also without my mother, and so the petunias passed me by. I was too shy to ask to take one home for my mother, but oh, I wanted flowers for her. Not because I had forgotten Mother's Day and this was a face-saving solution, but because she deserves flowers.

This woman deserves RUBIES.
      I went home broken-hearted. One, because my mom didn't get a petunia, and two, because I wasn't brave enough to just go ask for one on her behalf.
      But, as I said, in my church we believed in miracles. I remembered that we were starting some carnation plants in our cold frame, and I thought, surely if I asked God to make one of them bloom—just one—that wouldn't be a selfish thing to ask. Because my mom is a Good Woman. She deserves to have flowers today.
      I sat by that cold frame for hours and I prayed harder than I have ever prayed in my life.

      No carnation burst miraculously into bloom.

      I was very angry at God for not giving me this tiny small miracle when He was giving all sorts of other people in my church all sorts of miracles, big and little, every day.
          And then I was ashamed, because was it not selfish in the first place to ask for a miracle, when I had been too shy to simply ask for a petunia? And besides, even though I had tried to ask with purity of heart, and even though it was a selfless prayer I prayed, I knew to a thousandth of a gram exactly the weight of sin my unworthy soul carried, and was it not mocking God for a sinner such as I to ask for even this small thing, even selflessly (or at least as selflessly as someone so steeped in sin as I could)? And surely there were people who needed miracles more than I, so who was I to hog up God's time with my petty requests?
          So, no flower for Mom on that Mother's Day. And you know what? It didn't matter to her. I didn't have to buy her love with bedding plants because that's not how she measured her love.
          Other, better people would have ultimately found a more spiritual lesson in the experience than I did. Because that day taught me simply that God is distant—at best disinterested; at worst uninterested. But it also taught me that Mom is Always There, and Mom is Made of Love. She knows all my faults and shortcomings because who else has X-ray eyes that can see right into my soul**, and yet still somehow she finds me worthy of love. And that is the real, true, enduring miracle—because my mother's love makes me a better person than I have any right to be. 

*It would be perfectly accurate to say without an idea in my head full stop.
**The only correct answer here is, "My mom."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, lovely daughter! How am I so fortunate to have such a daughter?
    What a wonderful Mother's Day gift.