A friend posted a lovely picture of a dandelion bouquet from their kid. That triggered a memory, of a song that used to be one of my jams way back. I went and listened to it for the first time in years, thinking about sharing it... But rather than posting it as an "aww" comment, I discovered that my frame had shifted!
The topic of the song is, of course, the enthusiasm of a kid collecting dandelions for his mother, and her delight in receiving his gift. "She sees love where anyone else would see weeds" and puts them in a vase, fulfilling his tiny dreams etc.
The second half of the song, though, makes a straight analogy - singer as kid, god as mother.
lord search my heart
create in me something clean
you see flowers in these weeds
Boom, and there it is - the doctrine of "total depravity" that underlies... well I was going to say Reformed Theology and TULIP and Calvinism, but I'm actually not sure where the line between "original sin" and "total depravity" falls, nor do I particularly care at the moment. Pardon the Christian-ese lingo, friends. The gist is that we are fundamentally bad, and that every good and perfect gift comes from above, allowing us to do good things despite our morally bad nature that is theoretically replaced by salvation making us a "new creation" but not in a way actually removes thorns from our sides or changes the necessity of a lifelong struggle of sanctification.
Couple that with penal substitutionary atonement and conscious eternal torment, and it's a pretty unpleasant framework in which to live! FIF takes a pretty strong form with the line "more than sacrifice could merit" in this song, but even any "lite" position that assumes "we are fundamentally morally bad and deserve to be punished for that inherent nature" seems to me now to be such a strangely perverse and petty God - one that would be created only by men fashioning God in their own image, believing in the paradox of loving damnation because they don't dare to dream bigger.
And it seeps backwards into the first part of the song, now, in my mind - coloring the characterization of dandelions as weeds and the unquestioned assumption that the only way that a mother would see beauty in these yellow flowers. Are dandelions not allowed to be pretty, because of their fundamental weed nature? When people "aww" at a bouquet of dandelions, are they also thinking "those are so ugly, haha dumb kid doesn't know to judge those as worthless yet"? I hope not! And if they are... do we all realize that there's nothing objective in a scorn for the visual appearance of dandelions?
I'm not implying that dandelions are inherently worthy of moral appreciation either, by the way. A dandelion just is what it is! We can appreciate it, or not, for various aspects of its appearance or behavior - but all such judgments are contained in us... not in the flower. I will claim the freedom to enjoy a bouquet without needing it to be redeemed by the lack-of-judgment of the giver.
Dang that song is still catchy, though.