Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
-2 Timothy 1:7
It was a bad accident. I couldn’t see just how bad – not yet. I was stuck in the backup on the interstate, but I could see people stopping on the other side of the road and running to the accident site. Peering between the two lanes of stopped traffic I could see people running frantically back and forth in the road.
Soon, an ambulance arrived, picked up the injured driver and left in a hurry. I offered a prayer for them. Then, the traffic began to move, slowly, by the accident. An SUV sat on its side. It had evidently rolled several times. No other cars were involved.
I was filled with fear and dread. I picked up the phone and called my partner. “I love you,” I said. “I love you, too,” she responded, a little bewildered. I told her about the accident. It reminded me that life can change in the blink of an eye. We’re here one minute, the next minute we’re clinging to life in the back of an ambulance.
The world is a scary and unpredictable place. Perhaps that’s why Jesus had to keep telling the people around him to “fear not.” There’s so much to be afraid of in our world: crime, accidents, discrimination, war, random violence. As gay and lesbian Christians we have our own special brand of fear. If we’re closeted, we’re fearful of being found out. If we’re out, we’re fearful of being attacked, beaten or killed simply for being who are. If we’re partnered, we’re afraid of losing it all if a partner dies and greedy family members circle the door looking to collect. We know the law won’t protect us, no matter how careful we’ve been. If we’re single, we’re afraid we’ll always be alone.
When the disciples expressed fear, Jesus sought to put things into perspective for them. “Consider the lilies,” he told them. I’m sure they all had furrowed brows at this point. “The lilies? What’s that got to do with anything?” they probably thought. They were worried about how they were going to make it in the world – but Jesus told them it’s not the things of this world that they should be worried about. They needed to get their priorities right.
I imagine Jesus’ words could have become a catchphrase for the disciples. As soon as one of them started worrying about a broken sandal strap or where they were going to get their next meal, another would turn to him and say, “Consider the lilies,” and they’d smile, knowing their anxiety was misplaced. I propose as GLBT Christians, we make this our catchphrase. Whenever we feel threatened, abused or dismissed because of our sexual orientation or gender identity, we should turn to one another and say, “Consider the lilies,” and smile, knowing God is at work, no matter how dire our situation may seem.
Jesus understands that our fears in this world are real. If we come out, we may well lose our jobs. Some people have lost careers after leaving the closet. Many have lost their families, homes and children. They have paid a high price for being who they are in a world that hates and fears who are they are. Jesus is not downplaying the very real fears we have as humans – but he is asking us to look at the bigger picture.
When we suffer the slings and arrows of the world, we need a strength that the world cannot give us. If it were up to us to survive abuse, rejection and discrimination, we would never make it. Instead, we must consider the lilies. They don’t strive for anything. They bloom one day and are crushed the next – yet God cares for them in lavish ways. If God cares for a delicate bloom, then how much more does God care for us?
Jesus tells us not to strive for – not to be anxious about – what we need in this world. God knows what we need and as long as we are keeping a proper perspective about things, God will provide for our needs. My parents divorced when I was nine years old and we lost our comfortable home in the suburbs. We had to move into a government housing project because we were suddenly too poor to live anywhere else. It was government housing or the street.
My mother would always say, “God will provide.” It was her way of saying, “Consider the lilies.” We never had everything we wanted – but God provided everything we needed. A place to live, food on the table, clothes on our back and the assurance that God would provide for whatever other needs arose. God had before. There was no reason to believe otherwise.
Considering the lilies will not stop bad things from happening to us. We will still lose jobs, homes, partners, friends and family members. We will still risk our lives when we drive down the highway. We will still grieve over the deaths of those killed because of hatred. We will still fight for our right to marry our partner or keep our job or end all other forms of discrimination against us. Jesus never said life would be easy – but he did say we didn’t have to be anxious about it. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind free from worry.
Consider the lilies – and trust. The trust we place in God is never wasted. Sometimes things don’t go like we planned and the results we seek don’t materialize. Often, however, things turn out better than we had hoped – a new job, a new home, a new partner, a new church, a new family of choice. There are a thousand joys waiting for us if we simply trust in God, stop worrying, and take time every day to “consider the lilies.”
Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.