Orchid Theology | Raya
God himself is beauty, and he creates beautiful things.
“God Almighty was the first to plant a garden. It is, in fact, the purest of human pleasures.” -French bacon, From the gardens (1625)
I adore orchids. Caring for them in my home is a hobby that brings me a lot of happiness. The beauty and diversity of the orchid reminds me of God’s creativity and care for every part of creation, and I get great satisfaction from raising them.
With more than 28,000 species worldwide, orchids are the largest family of flowering plants. Some orchids are small in size; Others are huge and weigh hundreds of pounds. Some have a delicate or delicious fragrance, others have a spicy smell, and a few have an unpleasant smell. Many species of orchids can live for decades. Some are terrestrial. Others are epiphytes, meaning they grow on trees or shrubs with their roots exposed to extract moisture from the humid air in their environment.
When fertilized, orchids produce large numbers of very small seeds. Surprisingly, most varieties require compatible fungi in their environment to germinate. Some varieties will only interact with one type of fungus, making them highly vulnerable to changes or interference in their ecosystem.
Orchid cultivation began as a hobby in the mid-19th century among wealthy flower collectors in England. In a period sometimes called “orchidilirium” or “orchid mania,” enthusiasts funded dangerous and sometimes extreme expeditions around the world in an attempt to obtain rare species from the wild for their collections. They paid exorbitant sums for plants that ultimately had a very low survival rate because little was known about their care. In 1973, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora banned international trade in orchid species taken from their natural habitats, but even today, the theft of rare and desirable orchids from botanic gardens and illegal harvesting from the wild continues, putting many The species is in danger of extinction.
In moments of contemplation as I watered my little collection, I wondered whether my fascination with orchids was complete devotion to God or if I was submitting to a bit of “humor and turmoil” myself. Is the time and money I spend buying and growing expensive houseplants a selfish act? Is the pleasure I take in making it flourish merely frivolous, incompatible with seeking first the kingdom of God? I suppose the question can be asked more broadly: Can our investment in things or activities that make our lives and living spaces more satisfying and beautiful be an honor to God?
I admire the work of William Morris, the English textile designer and leader of the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the 20th century. Morris rejected the chaos of Victorian homes and low-quality mass-produced products and focused instead on simplicity, beauty, creativity, quality and craftsmanship. His motto was: “Do not have anything in your homes that you do not know is useful or that you do not think is beautiful.” Can this position be reconciled with the Christian point of view? Should our gardens contain flowers or only vegetables?
Beauty in the natural world is a sign of God’s provision: “See how the lilies of the field grow. They neither work nor make their own clothes, but Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God so wonderfully cares for the wildflowers that are here today that will be thrown into Fire tomorrow, He will surely care about you. Why do you have so little faith?’ (Matthew 6:28-34).
Growing things like houseplants or a garden is itself an act of optimism and hope, even an act of faith. There is no guarantee that the seed will flourish, the plant will flower, or the vine will produce fruit, yet when we care about planting, we trust in God’s provision. It may take a long time to see results, especially with slow-growing plants like orchids. Gardening taught me that good things don’t always come quickly. The life we live for the sake of God requires patience, confidence and optimism. When life is disappointing, the beauty of the orchid reminds me to lean into grace. God is in control.
Written by Lucy Maud Montgomery Anne’s dream houseI believe that handling the growing green things, watching each day to see new treasured shoots, is aiding in creation. And now my garden is like faith – the essence of hoped-for things. Or consider this quote from author Phyllis Theroux: “I think this is what connects one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation.” In Genesis 1, we find the recurring phrase, “And God saw that it was good.” The Hebrew word for “good” is Tove, which can also be translated as “beautiful” or “working as it was intended.” Genesis 1:31 can be read like this: “And God looked at all that He had made, and saw that it was perfect and beautiful!” Everything in creation was good and beautiful and working the way it was meant to work.
Creation glorifies God because it reflects God’s attributes. God himself is beauty, and God creates beautiful things. Psalm 96:6 says: “Honor and splendor surround him; power and beauty fill his sanctuary” (NLT). We are created in the image of God, we reflect the qualities of God, and we are naturally drawn to beauty, creativity, and order. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul commands us to live our lives “The Christian understanding of leisure is also based on beauty. Leisure is truly re-creation. We carry out works of restoration and creativity that bring beauty to the world. … The whole of life can be an act of contemplation of God’s glory, or of consecration Works for the Glory of God” (“Beauties and Essential Pursuits of Christianity,” tinyurl.com/3wacvbbb). This is consistent with the Reformed view that when we do our daily work well—when we make a piece of art, or plant a flower garden, or care for others—we glorify God by acting on our purpose, and in doing so, we participate in and oversee creation.
I believe that when we devote our work and leisure activities to the glory of God, or when we look at a sunset, a beautiful landscape, or a child’s face and see God’s fingerprints, it brings God’s glory. The Bible says that believers “behold and contemplate the glory of the Lord. And the Lord…makes us more and more like Him as we are transformed into His glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:16). When I tend to my orchids, I see a reflection of the Lord’s beauty and glory, and I remember that it is the God who cares about Enough to create a fragile, mysteriously beautiful houseplant that cares about me too, and that God is working in me, life, and in the world to bring about God’s kingdom in beautiful ways that I can’t always understand. Truly, “God has made all things beautiful for their time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) .
- What are some of the most beautiful things you have ever known?
- “Gardening teaches me that good things do not always come quickly. A life lived for God requires patience, confidence, and optimism. What experiences do you have that might echo or support this statement?
- How do we encourage people, especially Christians, who may consider themselves “ugly” or unbeautiful?
- How can you, in your own way, participate in adding beauty to God’s world?