Parts of Matthew 6:25-33 have been appearing more often than usual on my social media account. Sometimes, a few of the key verses are superimposed over lily or a bird eating seeds, sometimes only the reference is provided. I think many people are seeking the provision of God during the trying times we face worldwide. These verses paint a vivid word picture of how God provides for plants and animals; we can trust that if he cares for them, God will care for us. I want to share the story of how these verses first became very real to my when I was a college student. Like sum.edu students, I was blessed to be able to attend a Christian college. Unlike sum.edu students, I attended classes in a building and lived in a dorm.
Once of the fun things about living in a dorm is the ability to pull pranks on each other. My freshman year, I pulled a lot of pranks and I had a lot of pranks pulled on me. I did things like hiding a girl’s toothbrush under her pillow or rubbing Vaseline on the bathroom door knob or putting plastic wrap on the toilet seat. Like all fads, the pranks came to an end as course work became more intense around the time of our mid-terms.
I took mid-terms very seriously. I had an academic scholarship and I was required to keep a certain grade point. My scholarship package also included an on campus job in the theater department. As a freshman, my job was to help build and paint the sets. I was very busy and as mid-terms drew close, I set up a schedule: study an hour before breakfast, go to breakfast, attend a class, study for an hour, go to chapel, have lunch, study for an hour, paint sets, review study notes, go to supper, go to library to study until lights out. It was a rigid schedule and I’d been sticking to it in the days before mid-terms were to start. Pranks were far from my mind, but not from my friend Angie’s mind. I had pulled the prank of all time on her the week before; I’d stolen the mattress from her bed. I thought it was a hysterically funny thing to do, but she wasn’t too happy to have to hunt all over the dorms to find it. However, after I helped her find the mattress and bring it back to her room, she laughed about what a good joke it was, and then she smiled and “I’ll get you back.”
I had put all of that out of my mind as we entered the preparation week of study before mid-terms. The only non-study related event a few of us engaged in was “Secret Sister.” A girl would choose another girl and secretly leave small gifts or notes of encouragement for her “Secret Sister” throughout the semester. But most of us were so focused on reviewing our notes and quizzing each other on study guides, that few notes of encouragement were being secretly posted. I was pleasantly surprised, after an afternoon of painting set pieces, to come into my dorm room and see that someone had lovingly handwritten Matthew 6:25-33 on pretty, pink, rose-boarded paper, and taped it to my closet door. After I read the verses of encouragement, I silently thanked God for the “Secret Sister” who taped the paper to my closet. It really touched my heart. I sat down to study, remember, I was adhering to a strict schedule; I had thirty minutes to study, change clothes, and get to the cafeteria for supper. I pondered verse 27 “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Thinking that someone cared enough about me to remind me not to worry about mid-terms felt good. As I settled into my chair and began to review my study notes, something made me pause. I looked at verse 28 “And why do you worry about clothes?” My heart suddenly started thumping. How did my “Secret Sister” know when I would be out of my room? How did she get into my room? Why did she put the note on my closet? I jumped from my chair and flung open the closet doors. A single hanger was left in the bare closet and on it hung a clown suit. Angie had taken every piece of my clothing and left me with only a clown suit.
Of course, my friend returned all my clothes that night and we had a good laugh as I pronounced her the prank winner. I have not been able to read those verses from Matthew since that time without remembering my temporarily altered closet. I imagine that many of us feel like our “closets,” (the way we do our jobs, attend worship services, interact with extended family members) have been altered the way my physical closet was altered. Maybe it feels like a “clown suit” is all that is left of the way we used to do life prior to this spring. Maybe it feels like all of this is just one giant prank, a prank that is not fun. No matter how this all turns out, let’s still hold to the truth that the lilies of the field are not anxious. Ponder Matthew 6:25-33 this spring when you see lilies blooming.