In the upcoming season of Arraigadas (Aviva Nuestros Corazones’ version of the videocast Grounded), we will be studying the book The Right Kind of Strongby Mary Kassian. As I prepared for the programs, I came across a phrase that Mary Kassian uses, and it quickly became meaningful to me.
Mary said, “God wants you to be a steel magnolia.”
Certainly, I’ve heard that phrase several times, but reading it made me want to dig a little deeper and investigate the magnolia itself. I wanted to know why the phrase refers to this specific flower. What I found intrigued me . . .
Steel Magnolias: Designed with Care
The magnolia is native to the United States (apparently there are many in the southern part of the country) and is used as an ornament; it’s not a fast-growing tree. Here I see two aspects that we must consider in our own lives:
- Adornment. Our conduct as women should adorn the gospel; we should draw attention to the gospel’s beauty.
- Growth. True growth occurs to the extent that we take the time to nurture the seed which is the gospel, so that it can grow and bear fruit. We do not grow spiritually overnight—It is a process that we must care for and nurture. We must be intentional about consuming all the nutrients we need so we can develop strong roots that are able to sustain the tree and not be blown away by every wind of doctrine.
The magnolia requires not only care and dedication but also deep and moist soil in order to grow. In the same way, our spiritual lives need intentional care. They need a suitable space to grow so that our roots can deepen and nourish the whole plant. Scripture contains many comparisons between the health of a plant and a person’s relationship with the Lord, but this passage in particular comes to mind:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15: 4–5)
According to botany, the uniqueness of the magnolia has to do with the perfection of its shape, that is, its design. Each flower is crafted with precision just as we were created according to a specific design, with a unique role. Though sinful, we are “perfect” in the sense that we carry the image of God in us—we were created in His image and likeness. What more do we need to feel secure?
When my identity is in the right place, when I know who I am in Christ, everything else fades away. I don’t need a title, I don’t need fame, I don’t need to create a name for myself or work to leave a legacy. What I need is to point to my Creator, to model and live that divine design for which He created me, having thought of me before the foundation of the world.
As the magnolia is unique in beauty among flowers, so are women made uniquely and wonderfully among God’s creation. It’s not God’s mistake that we are women; it doesn’t make us “less than” or weak. On the contrary, living God’s way in a world like ours requires courage and strength, but we must be strong in His way: we must be women who bend their knees in prayer, who practice piety and prudence, who live counter-culturally, and who seek to please their Lord more than anything else.
The magnolia is not a flower that goes unnoticed, and it’s often used as an essence for perfumes. When we live the way God expects us to, it is evident to those around us—we won’t go unnoticed! The purpose is not to draw attention to ourselves, but to the One who saved us.
Would those around you notice that you’re . . .
- A role model
- A teacher of what’s good
- Reverent in conduct
And that’s just a few of the characteristics for which we should be noticed. Just as the magnolia points to its Creator, our conduct can point to our Lord or it can allow Him to be blasphemed.
Strong Like a Flower
I still have a long, long way to go to become what the Word of God commands. That’s why we must water our souls, cut away damaged branches, and give careful care to our relationship with the Lord so that what comes out of our lives is like the sweet perfume of a magnolia—a pleasing offering to the Lord. May we never forget that the light we reflect is not our own, but rather the light of Christ in us.