I find myself thinking about lavender as I sit down to write this article today. I confess that this past week has been a difficult week for my soul. The Parish House/Crosslines has been closed, as we do each year the week of the 4th of July and I had planned to spend the week working at home because I don’t like taking the 4th of July week as vacation. Because we are up for review by the WV Annual Conference in September. I knew that there are lots of things to look through and work on that could be done at home. However, Friday morning, I decided to call the week vacation because I had not worked at all.
With the recent floods in WV and the knowledge that so many have lost so much, the reports of the attacks that came throughout the world at the end of the Muslin holy month of Ramadan, and the shooting events in our country this past week, the burden of God’s pain became very evident to me because I felt it. We seem to have either no solution or too many solutions to all the chaos that has been happening in our world. And it is not just those folks out there in the world somewhere having all the trouble or is it just us here in the US experiencing all the trouble. It is all of the world, all of God’s children that are experiencing this pain, this anguish. And unfortunately, it is also God’s children that are promoting and causing the pain and the anguish because we are ALL God’s children.
So, I find myself thinking about lavender. Lavender is an herb that has gorgeous lavender blooms that stand tall, proudly proclaiming to all who notice that there is something special about them. And there is. Lavender not only offers a feast for the eyes, but its oil and leaves have calming and healing properties. The fragrance of the blooms and the oil is unforgettable. The oil, infused in water or put directly on the skin, releases a fragrance that brings about immediate calm, slowing down the anxious heart, healing the wounded spirit, reminding humanity that there is something good and special about each and every person.
In the New Testament, we find lavender call nard. It was a costly ointment that was used to honor someone. In the Gospel of John we find the story that suggests that Mary opens the nard and then washes Jesus feet. The Gospel proclaims that the fragrance filled the whole house and I can imagine that the fragrance was unforgettable. Jesus was facing the end of his earthly life. He knew things in his heart that no one else understood and I can imagine that Jesus felt very lonely. The act of washing his feet was a profound act of love that said to Jesus, “I may not understand everything that you are going through or thinking or experiencing, but may this offering of fragrance sustain you during this difficult time.”
I imagine that the fragrance of lavender, the washing of his feet, the gesture of unconditional love, brought a healing balm to the heart of Jesus as he faced the most difficult persecution and death that we can imagine. The memory must have sustained him and brought him some peace.
The fragrance of lavender and the boldness of those lavender blooms remind me of something that Julian of Norwich said about prayer. Julian was one of the Mystics of the church, someone with a deep love for God and a powerful understanding of prayer. Recently, my friend K gave me a card with Julian’s thought about prayer and during the past week I have come to understand that my week has been a week of the Best Prayer. Here is what Julian says: “The Best Prayer is to Rest in the goodness of God, knowing that goodness can reach right down to our lowest depths of need.”
Right now, it feels to me that the world has reached its lowest depth of need. We need the fragrance of lavender to bring us calm and healing. We need the Best Prayer of rest in the goodness of God to know what to do next and how to respond with unconditional, brave, and fragrant love. The fragrance of lavender is a reminder to me of God’s deep profound love for all of us, no matter how different we are from each other. This fragrance can also remind us of the deep pain and anguish that God feels as the world descends into chaos and pain. And maybe, most importantly, the fragrance of lavender can remind us of God’s hope that we seek out love and become more loving in our actions toward our brothers and sisters.
As I write this on Saturday, I am aware that my vacation week is drawing to a close as is my week of Best Prayer of resting in God’s goodness. What I am aware of most is that with this week of fortification of strength and calm, God will call me to action as God calls all of us to action. What God might be calling me to do about all of this pain and violence and misery, I am not sure yet, but I am certain that God will make the action clear and then remind me of the promise that God will never leave me.
I encourage us all to take part in this Best Prayer and then, with the fragrance and grace and peace of lavender set forth to bring God and this world hope.
To God alone be glory!