I had a little friend in elementary school with that nickname, poor guy. It is supposed to have the connotation for something of a weakling, an insecure, helpless, fruitcake of a person who is about as strong as a flimsy flower. But the word is a misnomer.
You should see the pansies in my garden. They’re the strongest flowers in the world! Good grief, I’ve transplanted them three times, they’ve been through a bad frost, scorched by the summer heat, had a heavy pile of wet leaves accidentally dumped on them, and my dog lays his big body across them during his daily 18-hour nap. And they’re still going . . . beautiful purple, gold, and white pansies with the most amazing root system.
I want to be a pansy.
"Light, space, zest—that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing."
Psalm 27:1, The Message
I know some people who have been there through “long winters” “bad frosts” – death, illness, divorce, and other unthinkable tragedies. They’ve not only survived, they’ve flourished. I’ve known others who have been through “transplanting” – major job changes, difficult adoptions, or relationship changes. Some have had “a heavy pile of wet leaves accidentally dumped on them” - very often situations where things just don’t work out like they planned and it really hurts. Wouldn’t ya know, those guys grew through the pile, their green leaves growing through a tough season and popping out in full colour in the spring. And don’t get me wrong; colour doesn’t mean happy, it means not dead. It means that they refuse to let the season of life change who they really are. It means the summer heat is only making them stronger people.
These people, in the most heroic sense of the word, are pansies. They are the heroes of the world who know well their root system and won’t be thwarted just because they were somehow sat upon by life. And I thank them for teaching me. I know a lot of pansies. My parents are pansies. My best friend is a pansy. And my husband, hear me how I say it, is the biggest, strongest, most colourful pansy in the world. I want to be a pansy.
I recently hiked Mossy Ridge Trail close to Nashville. It was a tough hike and I was working out a little frustration. I’d hiked for a week in North Georgia years before and although it was an excellent time, I hadn’t had any revelations. But here, in Nashville, a place to which I didn’t really want to move at first, I actually found the trail that gave me some peace. No, it wasn’t the trail. It was the park bench. After almost 5 miles of pure exhaustion, I saw this beautifully carved tree that had been made, apparently, just for me.
I sat on it; I read the plaque. It went something like this: “To Mothers and their babies. To loss, to life, and rebirth.” The bench had been a dead tree, but it had been recreated to give rest to the weary. In Spanish, a pansy is translated as the flower of thought. Hmmm ...
Someone recently shared with my friend Amy that she pictured Heaven as a place where countless mommies finally got to rock the babies they never held on earth. That was years ago but that will be me, of course. And I pray I’ll have a bushel of pansies in my arms as well.
Two of those pansies hold the names of our sons, who have been through long winters as well, survived, and have changed everything about the way I think. And that’s a good thing.