The Lesson of the Dandelion


This dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals, and has reached its crowning stage of dying – the delicate seed-globe must break up now – it gives and gives till it has nothing left.  What a revolution would come over the world – the world of starving bodies at home – the world of starving souls abroad, if something like this were the standard of giving;  if God’s people ventured on ‘making themselves poor’ as Jesus did, for the sake of the need around; if the ‘I’ – ‘me’ – ‘mine’ were practically delivered up, no longer to be recognized when they clash with those needs.   Parables of The Cross

I was fascinated, as a child, with the seed-globe of the dandelion.  It seemed to magically evolve from an ordinary yellow flower to an ephemeral globe which with a breath – puff! – would disperse little parachutes to worlds unknown.  I would oh-so-carefully pluck the long stem keeping the globe intact.  Then, with a great burst of air blow the wand with the intent of leaving not so much as one seed pod behind.  Like candles on a birthday cake, extinguished with one breath, it seemed to signal good luck.  Grace – if I had understood the word.

Lilias captures this moment of detachment through words and watercolors in her book, Parables of the Cross:  “The hour of this new dying is clearly defined to the dandelion globe:  it is marked by detachment.  There is no sense of wrenching:  it stands ready, holding up its little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may carry it away.” 

Her depiction of “detachment,” has a distinct spiritual two-fold application:  1) liberation from the “‘I’ – ‘me’ – ‘mine’;  2) liberation for service to others.  Lilias visualizes a life so free from self-centeredness that it, like the seed-globe, is free to give and give and give – as the Spirit leads:  “It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be given:  a breath does the rest, turning the ‘readiness to will’ into the ‘performance.'”   

It was by clear intent that Lilias linked the moment of detachment – “I am now ready to be offered” – to a quote on suffering by Ugo Basso, a 19th Century monk of the St. Barnabas Order.

“Measure thy life by loss, and not by gain,

Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.

For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice,

And he who suffers most has most to give.”

The poem from which these lines were culled, was distilled from a sermon preached by Basso in a hospital ward in Rome.  His text, the Vineyard Chapter of the Gospel of John, was preached with the intent of bringing hope and meaning to a “congregation” of suffering people.  He connected “the wine poured forth” to the drastic pruning – suffering – requisite for abundant fruit.

The desired state of detachment essential for a life of willing service frequently is achieved through the work of suffering – more often involuntary than by choice.  Yet is it not through that very suffering that we fall, prostrate, before God? And it is not those periods of suffering that we acknowledge, in retrospect, to be times of the soul’s greatest growth?  Basso encourages his captive audience:  “He who suffers most has most to give.”

This is the message of the Cross:  He died that we might live.  “. . . For Love’s strength standeth in Love’s Sacrifice; And He who suffers most has most to give.” (my capitals; my italics)

Perhaps through the Lenten season we have experienced a tiny taste of renunciation – the voluntary sacrificing of something to identify with sufferings of Someone. This may be a warm-up exercise for the kind of everyday living that welcomes any kind of suffering – involuntary  or voluntary – if it brings us into a deeper relationship with Christ and, in turn, with others.  “We cannot know Christ and the power of His resurrection without also entering into the fellowship of His suffering.”  (Elisabeth Elliot)

A life of liberty is the end result of “detachment” – the renunciation of dying to self.  It plays out in unlikely places and in unforseen ways.  There are countless opportunities – large and small – for us to choose to pick up the cross Jesus presents to us in the course of everyday living all year round:  gracious acceptance of disappointment. . .  carrying out of a humble task with humility and joy. . .   bearing the burden of another. . .  losing some of our time to help someone gain time. . .  the deferring of credit to someone else.

Have we learned the lesson of the dandelion?  Can we say with the abandonment of the seed-globe:  “I am ready to be offered?”

dandelion seeds

                                            Watercolor – from Parables of the Cross

This entry was posted in Lent, renunciation, sacrifice, service, suffering and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Lesson of the Dandelion

  1. Pingback: Many Beautiful Things Movie: Why have we never heard of Lilian Trotter? | Lael Arrington

  2. joyce benedict says:

    where can I purchase the print or poster of the lesson of the dandelion?????

    • mhrockness says:

      The painting of the dandelion – and the parable – are both found in Parables of the Cross by Lilias Trotter. There are several editions of that book on Amazon but I would recommend the facsimile edition reprinted by Oxvision as it not only keeps the original format but contains the best reproductions of the her paintings to date. But I am sorry to say there is no isolated print or poster of that painting. It would be lovely though, wouldn’t it? Miriam Rockness

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