the penultimate WORD
Series 2008 -
The Irvine Tartan • My monthly column in The New Brunswick Anglican
Jesus loves me...
He loves me still...
He loves me yet...
And he always will.
The tug on my heart was first evidenced as I pulled on a daisy along the path. Daisies have been harvested along pathways across the diocese, and well beyond. I know they have been held in youthful hands not only in Saint John and Fredericton, but in Minto and Oromocto and Tracy as well. They’re wonderful, cheerful, exuberant flowers, both simple and sophisticated. And they’re often the first blooms young children pick to give to their mothers.
And yet, daisies never stop speaking to the child in most of us. My experience with the familiar blooms began very shortly after beginning school. The late June and early July would welcome the ubiquitous flower each year. But I was no botanist and had no idea that what I beheld was the scentless chamomile: Tripleurospermum inodorum. I discovered my presumptuous error late in life, but not too late. No matter – my interest was more in assessing the affections of that cute little red-headed girl in the second row and who occupied the third desk in school.
“She loves me,” I began as I plucked a petal and cast it off. “She loves me not,” I continued, plucking a second petal and discarding it indifferently on the ground. “She loves me,” and the sequence had begun. We have all followed the sequence, and we have all begun in the optimistic hope of being the object of the Other’s love. The process continues until all of the petals are nothing more than a trail tracing our progress along a sidewalk or neighbourhood path.
Scentless chamomile is a summer annual with daisy-like flowers that have a yellow center and white rays. It was introduced from Europe about 100 years ago. It occurs throughout New Brunswick, and across our country. There are two cytotypes and both may have extra chromosomes. They are morphologically and ecologically similar, but with different ranges. In Canada diploids occur mainly in the Maritimes and tetraploids in western Canada.
When I had deconstructed the diploid in my youthful hand, and had not attained the satisfactory affirmation of love sought in my effort I did what any of you would do in a similar situation: I picked another daisy! In fact, I picked enough daisies in succession until I was satisfied with the outcome.
And “she loves me,” is the only satisfaction of the heart.
I discovered later that the scentless chamomile has influenced me more than I had perhaps expected. It has touched us all in a very personal and profound way. It has, I learned, shaped our understanding about the capacity of God to love us. The petals strewn on the path suggest that we are not loved half of the time! As much as I had determined that the cute little red-headed girl that sat in the second row and who occupied the third desk - or was it the third row and the second desk - loved me, I knew that she only loved me half as much as I needed to be loved.
Perhaps that’s why we always kept the amorous insights of the scentless chamomile a secret, particularly from the One who loves us. I would never have told her. I have even forgotten her name!
We don’t think theologically any more than I considered Tripleurospermum inodorum biologically! Regardless of our conscious intention, we cannot help but think that we are unworthy of Jesus’ affection. Half of the time – at least half of the time – we know that we fall short of Jesus’ favour. We know that God is love, and that he is motivated by his very nature to reach out to his creation. But the discarded petals convince us that Jesus’ capacity, as immense as it may be, may not extend to us individually, personally.
As petals follow us throughout our lives I have ministered to too many broken and discouraged people I have met on the journey. Better, I think that the scentless chamomile be picked again but now rehearsed: “Jesus loves me,” as I pluck a petal and let it fall to my path. “Jesus loves me still,” as a second petal follows the first. “Jesus loves me yet,” and fingers select each petal in turn; “and he always will.”
Copyright © 2008 James T. Irvine