Focus on the Lilies


Sunday Morning: We’re at a little church that we’ve visited several times lately. It’s really just a big country church. They’re a friendly bunch and just good people.

Nothing fake here.

There is one problem, however. And I hate to bring it up.

But …

There are several pieces of artwork on either side of the front wall, on both sides of the pulpit. It’s some kind of metal ironwork with curves and circles.

Actually, it’s a common symbol found in churches. The symbol is a fleur de lis, which is a fancy word for a lily. You’ll recognize it as the symbol that the New Orleans Saints NFL football team uses.

Geaux Saints!

Sometimes churches use the fleur de lis to refer to the Virgin Mary, or to the Holy Spirit, or as a symbol of the Trinity.

But the lily, per se, isn’t the problem.

The difficulty here is worthy of a Sunday-afternoon-long congregational meeting to discuss. Naps would be missed, football games unseen, and meals uneaten.

So, here it is – the big problem:

When I try to focus my eyes, from our pews in the back of the auditorium, the lilies are all just a blur.

I’ve tried to focus, but my eyes get tired and I lose track of the sermon.

I mean, we love the people here and everything. They do lots of awesome stuff – sending medical help to mission fields in Central America.

I just wish they could get the lilies to focus.

I suppose if I believed, as did Augustine, that there were hidden meanings (allegories) behind every chair, tree, or lily, I might think there’s a message here.

I’d thought about asking around in the congregation to see if there was an optometrist who might be able to explain this unfortunate discrepancy with the obviously ill-conceived artwork, but never got around to it.

It’s really distracting!

The preacher is really good and actually elicits thoughts and questions. But just 8 feet on either side of him are out of focus lilies crying out for clarity.


Maybe it’s just my aging eyes.

I’ve been known to see things that weren’t there before and to completely misunderstand the meaning of things.

And sometimes life changing events can overwhelm me and make me unable to see clearly.

And it can be painful.

Sometimes these out of focus events come to me in an early Sunday morning phone call from a very upset brother yelling that our mom has just gone.

And I can’t see clearly.

Or late-night call from a distraught sister that that same brother is suddenly gone.

And I can’t see clearly.

Or a frantic call from a daughter that she was just in a wreck, but she’s okay, but that she’s gotta go because the ambulance is here.

And I can’t see clearly.

I need clarity.

So, today at church, we sit a little closer to the front.

Trust me, it was only because we were late. This would never happen on a normal day when there were perfectly reasonable empty seats in the back of the auditorium.

And there it is again.

Staring at me indignantly and out of focus.

The Artwork.

The fleur de lis.

The Lily.

But, because I’m closer, I see the Lily better.

It’s casting a thin shadow on the wall behind.

Which, from a distance, makes all of them out of focus.

No optometrist needed.

But, at this distance…

At this closer distance…

I can make out the shadows behind each curve.

And it all makes sense to me now.

And I see clearly the metal lily apart from the shadows it casts upon the wall.

It’s a good thing that I don’t really believe in hidden meanings and such.

But the view from here absolutely makes the Lily a little easier to see.

And sometimes the pain gets more bearable.

I’ve never really paid much attention to lilies.

But, today they clearly look beautiful.


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