My son’s insatiable interest in volcanoes led me this week to watch a NOVA episode on Mount St. Helens with him. I was interested in learning more about the volcano as I had visited there when I was in high school. I was not prepared, though, for the spiritual lesson that jumped out at me in the form of a small lavender flower.
After the volcano erupted unexpectedly in 1980, spewing ash 15 miles into the atmosphere and leveling forests like so many matchsticks all laid out in the same direction, it left behind a “sterile,” in scientific terminology, pumice plain that was completely devoid of any living matter. From all accounts, it sounded like the scientists panicked at this point, wondering how on earth plants and animals would ever repopulate this area.
Then, in the spring of 1981, less than a year after the eruption, scientists found a lone lavender prairie lupine growing in the midst of the ashes. They have no idea how the seed got there, but they do know how it grew. Lupines have a unique symbiotic relationship with a rhizobial bacteria that provides them with all they need to grow, even in the absence of any soil nutrients. This single lupine plant flourished and grew and became the nucleus of burgeoning biological renewal in the volcanic rubble. The nitrogen it created as it grew enabled other plants to be able to grow there, and it attracted hungry insects and other animals to it as well.
I thought of how events in our lives, whether physical, relational, financial or otherwise, can be like volcanic eruptions. Devastation, unlooked-for, sweeps us off our feet, choking the life out of us and leaving behind no visible forms of life. Yet, by the grace of God, we can emerge from the ashes just like that little lupine. As the lupine is self-sufficient, we have all that we need in Christ. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8, emphasis added). And as we grow and blossom, the beauty and fragrance of Christ in us attracts others who are looking for hope in this barren wasteland of sin. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 says, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
I think of the people I know who are lupines. They have come through divorce, abuse, illness and loss, and yet in spite of their personal tragedies, or maybe because of them, they glow with a beauty too deep for words. This is the miracle that is Christ living in us. No matter the devastation we have suffered, we can be lupines in the lava field, flourishing and blossoming through the life-giving grace of our Savior.