The backyard is awash in purple. Sometime within the past week or so, heaps of tiny little purple buds have poked their heads through blades of grass, heedless of the nighttime temps and the chilly mornings that we still have here in the Midwest.
I’m far from a gardener. It’s safe to say that my green thumb is probably black. I’ve managed to kill succulents, which thrive on neglect, and even the odd cactus a time or two. But there’s something about plants that leaves me intrigued. The thing about plants is that they grow without care to the world around them. They grow where no one planted. They can thrive even in the most inauspicious of places. And their growth persists unimpeded by the “improvements” that we humans try to make to the landscape around us.
Naturally, I was curious to know which tiny purple denizens had opted to call the backyard home. So with a helpful search of my iPhone (14 Pro Max, no less), I discovered that these tiny bulbs are called vinca minor or Periwinkle. When I dug a little deeper – not literally – I read that these small bulbs are considered invasive by several state governments, including the State of Indiana:
Once established, Vinca minor forms a dense carpet to the exclusion of other plants. This creates a problem where it is competing with native flora.https://www.in.gov/dnr/files/Periwinkle.pdf
According to the state, the solution to dealing with invasive species such as these is to simply rake them up – an inelegant solution that may allow them to resprout. Or, for best practices, just spray them with herbicide to make sure that they are thoroughly irradicated. Regardless of the poison one picks, the message is the same: the plants are “undesirable” and the best option is to simply get rid of them so that more desirable and native plants can reproduce in their stead.
What to do with the Undesirable?
On Easter morning, I can’t help but find myself grateful that God didn’t take the same approach to humanity that the State of Indiana recommends for Periwinkle.
Objectively, I believe that there is ample evidence to suggest that human beings as a species are as corrupt as the day is long. We have a penchant for death and deception. And yet we are paranoid about extending our own lives. We have an inherent fixation with ourselves, yet struggle to make connections with others. More of us are employed and working harder than ever before but that’s a bad thing because it can cost up to $16 for a Big Mac at McDonald’s. And that’s just a review of contradictory headlines from today.
It all reminds me of a Taylor Swift song that any of us could easily sing about ourselves: “It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s me.”
And that’s where Easter comes in. I don’t think that God is delusional. In response to Taylor, God’s reply is almost certainly the same as the State of Indiana, “yes, the problem is you.” But the there’s more to the Easter song than this.
The rest of the song is that for all of the deception, death, contradiction, paranoia, selfishness, and misguided priorities that we evince in our everyday lives, the God of the universe does not reach the conclusion that we are undesirable. But why?
Because of Jesus.
The Easter message is that Jesus endured the suffering of death for all of the evil that we undertake on a daily basis. He endured suffering for the small misgivings that people experience between one another; and he endured suffering for the large, nation-state evils that we inflict upon one another for large-scale political purposes. To mitigate these, the Easter message is that the God of the Universe destroyed a part of himself to right the ledger of the “undesirable.” And our debt was paid. Undesirable no more, we are loved.
I’ve always thought that the Easter message was one fundamentally of hope. Hope that the end of our physical existence is not the end of existence itself. Hope that the mistakes of the past need not be the mistakes of tomorrow. And hope that when life on Earth finally winds up, that good will prevail over evil.
I didn’t rake up the periwinkle. I didn’t spray them with herbicide. I smiled because I loved them. I loved their color. I loved their persistence. And I loved their company.
I think that’s how God feels about us.