In Psalm 103, one of my favorites, the writer reminds us of our mortality in a metaphor that other biblical writers also use: we “flourish like a flower of the field. The wind passes over it and it is gone” (verses 15, 16). Two different Hebrew words in the psalms are translated flourish. One means “to break forth like a bud, to spread,” and by extension “to fly.” The word used in this verse, however, has “to twinkle or glance” (the way light glances off water) listed as its first meaning, with “to bloom or show forth” as the extended meaning.
I am touched as I crawl my way through a Hebrew-Chaldee Dictionary. The poet of Psalm 103 says we twinkle, like stars. It reminds me of the notation used for writers and other artists whose birth and death dates are not known. She “fl. 8th century,” the note in Webster’s Biographical Dictionary reads. She shed a light for a brief time, like a star in the night sky, and was gone.
As I read the verse this morning, I recalled the fields of wildflowers in Colorado near Pike’s Peak, a region I visited a few times during my late twenties. I was astounded at the sheer number and variety of the wildflowers, blooming out in the middle of nowhere, seemingly for God’s delight alone.
So although the intent of the psalm is to highlight the brevity of life, the symbol also functions as a call to flourish indeed. Many people through the centuries have asked what it means to live well. Each of us must answer that question differently. For me yesterday, I was nearly bursting (like a bud) from contentment, driving back roads on a sunny winter day, admiring the cows who’d artistically arranged themselves in the fields. A great sense of well being came over me: blue sky, peace, and the hope of spring.
I want to spend my few precious days flourishing. I want to cultivate enough wildflowers in my life so that when one dies after its brief life, another springs up. Of course there will be autumn’s chill and winter’s death for activities and relationships alike. But o! to revel in the spring blossoms, the rich summer patches of color! all the while aware of the short time we all have, but not bowed down by it. Twinkling our bits of stardust, our bursts of wildflower color, on all whom we meet.