A few days later while driving home, I saw a single white flower by the road near our neighborhood. I had never seen this flower in Tucson before. The following morning, I saw a whole section further down that same road filled with this flowering plant: the Sacred Datura (also known as Jimsonweed, Thornapple, or Moonflower). Surprise! It looked beautiful, and yet so out of place in the section of land usually void of any vegetation. Thanks to some well-informed friends, I learned that though rare, the Datura plant has been in this part of the world and used by indigenous people to make poisons, medicines, and intoxicating substances for rituals for at least 3,000 years. Hence, its designation as sacred and cherished in the landscape. Since then, Krysia and I have made it a game to search for the Datura and other flowering surprises along our route each morning. Although we do not know the names of the plants we see, it has been fun to notice the yellows, purples, blues, and oranges we would have otherwise sped by unaware.
For me, these sights have been a reminder of God’s presence both generally in all of creation and specifically in our lives. It has been a reminder of how easy it is to not notice and how often we do not notice. Busy schedules and concerns about our work or finances. Worries about our health or that of a loved one. Tragic news from around the world. So many things stand in the way of our noticing the butterflies outside the window. So many things can distract our attention from Spirit’s nudging at our heart saying, “I am here; I am with you.” Yet, our God comes with surprises. Surprise! A baby for a couple well into their years. Surprise! Liberation for slaves and manna in the desert. Surprise! God, Emmanuel. Surprise! A beautiful sunset. Surprise! A plan of treatment from a doctor. Surprise! A call from a friend on a very bad day. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”