With this new community I call home for the summer, we often sit around campfires underneath the stars. It’s a refreshing space full of love for God and each other. It’s been difficult to transition after finding such a tight knit community in Memphis that meets my needs, even when I didn’t necessarily know what they were. I’m learning that I know myself well enough now to reach out for what I need in new relationships too, even if reaching out in vulnerability to new people is terrifying at first. Anyways, it’s a sweet time as we sit around a fire sharing stories and laughing after a hard day’s work. Sharing life with 25ish people in the same space is stretching and growing me. More than anything else, it causes me to think more deeply about myself and other people.
The other day, we began pulling up “weeds” in the common spaces around the house we all share. The weeds have small yellow flowers in the middle of them. Dandelions, I think. Maybe not the type of flower I would spend money on, but far from ugly enough to rip out of the dirt. So, questions arose in my mind as we kept pulling up these wildflowers: Whoever decided these were “weeds” and what is the purpose of a wildflower?
Before I answer those questions, story time:
A few months back, I entered into a type of therapy called EMDR. This therapeutic modality utilizes bilateral stimulation of the brain to help someone with traumatic experiences reprocess their memories connected to the trauma. In one of these sessions, as I closed my eyes, I found myself in a pitch black room surrounded by nothing but mist, a sense of terror, and a door which could be seen at the opposite end of the room. As I huddled in the corner, a figure began walking towards me. I was at first surprised and afraid, but then grew curious as I saw compassion in this figure’s eyes, kindness in its’ mouth, and strength in their shoulders. Everything else about the figure shifted and changed beyond recognition with every passing moment. They gave me an invitation. An invitation to come outside the door. Then the figure left. Initially, I clung to what I had always known: darkness. Though, as my eyes were suddenly opened to the devastation sitting in the dark all around me, I ran to the door, banging and begging for the figure to let me out. What I heard: “You have the capacity.” I sat there by the door sobbing for a moment, then reached up to try the door handle. To my surprise, it opened for me. I had the ability to leave the darkness on my own all along. As I entered the open air for what seemed like the first time, an image of mountains and a valley of wildflowers rose up. That figure danced with me in the valley of wildflowers as it began to rain. I have never felt so much joy envisioning dancing in the rain and a valley of wildflowers with what I believe to be my image of God, or as they laughed with an enthusiasm I have never heard before or since.
After this experience, even though it only occurred in my own mind, for me to think of wildflowers as weeds to be dug up is absurd. Why can’t all people see value and worth in the simple beauty each wildflower or “weed” provides? Sure, weeds can grow so quickly and overcome so much in a certain space that they become aggravating. But what if God created the wildflower simply to permeate every sect of our life with beauty no matter how defiantly we try to rid ourselves of it in our own dysfunction and misunderstanding of what beauty truly is? What if it isn’t just the wildflowers that God uses to show us beauty, but people and experiences that nag at our subconscious and make us uncomfortable with what they find there? Human beings tend to trample beauty and classify certain people or experiences as “weeds” in life to dig up and leave for dead just because they make us uncomfortable in the way they mirror our own dysfunctional behaviors. Maybe… just maybe these seemingly little moments of aggravation or irritation in life from people or experiences are God’s way of continually attempting to get our attention and steer us toward beauty and life as it was meant to be lived: full of joy intermingled with sorrow of the pain we’ve experienced that could be brought to healing if we only let Him do work in and through us.
Instead, we humans are much more apt to miss out on seeing beauty as we trudge through life on weary feet. As human beings, we so often overlook the simple joys in life and trample beauty with our own warped desires. The most concrete example of this for me was seeing new ground broken for a subdivision in Colorado covering up these simple wildflowers that exhibit simple beauty. Of course, this movement in society isn’t wrong, but I think motives behind such changes matter. More importantly, I am speaking to the negative movements we make emotionally and physically in our own lives and others. I believe it is our responsibility to become more self-aware, so we don’t let these behaviors rule our life or those around us.
In our subconscious behaviors, we miss it. By “it” I mean we miss out on life as it was meant to be lived. We end up unintentionally hurting ourselves and others based on our own dysfunctional behaviors.
I came across this article in looking up more information about weeds (see below). In it, I learned that weeds often spring up and grow quickly in response to whatever is deficient in that area’s soil and needs further attention. Weeds grow with the purpose of bringing attention to that which is MISSING. I think this is so applicable to life when certain areas of aggravation show us areas of our life that we may be deficient in. The main area of my life I cause pain to myself and other people in has been my addiction to relationships. For most of my life, this is how I sought to validate my worth.
When I classify myself as a “love addict” I typically have to preface what that means for me. Love in its truest form can never be overused or lead to an addiction. I believe, love was intended by God to show the world a picture of life as it was meant to be lived from the beginning of time. But because our broken human nature is to twist and distort, our view of love has become warped over time. I believe there are different forms of love the English language does not capture well enough. The Greek language uses a variety of terms in observation of love. “Eros” is used in reference to sexual passions or love of the physical body. In contrast to this, “Agape” is the type of love that transcends all other types of love. “Agape” love can also be understood as the love of God for us, His children, which goes beyond understanding. So, when I talk about being a “love addict,” I hesitate. I do not want to confuse the unconditional type of love God offers us with our human dysfunction that has twisted love in our own misunderstanding of what love was originally created to be.
Do I think someone can be addicted to “love” specifically? Maybe not. But can I be addicted to relationships, the validation they bring me, and the chemicals that seep into my brain and body during interactions with another human being I’m “in like” with? Abso-freaking-lutely. I raise both my hands to that because it’s this addiction that led to most of the harm I caused myself and others in my own story. I dated guy after guy after guy in high school and college sometimes harming them or allowing myself to be harmed. It was a tragic string of relationships I allowed in not knowing myself well enough to set healthy boundaries. I projected my warped experiences on them or took their own story on my own shoulders, as if I could be responsible for or save them myself. Yes, I am a love addict. And it’s not in the way I think love was ever intended to be understood. My mind that’s been warped by the trauma of my story is slowly being re-wired to reflect a more closely aligned image of what God intended from the beginning of time.
The way I’ve seen this most vividly in my life recently has been in studying the book of Hosea. It’s likely many of you have heard of or read about the book “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. It’s a fictional story based on the biblical book of Hosea. This is one of the books I read that brought me to a deeper understanding of God’s love and pursuit of me and eventually led to my belief in a higher power and savior who’s sacrifice covers my story full of harmful behaviors. It’s an imperfect story written by an imperfect human being, but it opened my eyes to so much truth as a high school student.
As an adult, I recently began studying and digging into the real story of Hosea. Despite the Israelites continued rejection of God and the covenant He made with them, God demonstrates His willingness to suffer and pursue relationship with a people who are clearly missing out on a life fully lived. There are consequences for their actions, but God chooses to renew covenantal relationship with them time and time again regardless of how much it causes Him pain to be rejected.
I will punish her for the days
she burned incense to the Baals;
she decked herself with rings and jewelry,
and went after her lovers,
but me she forgot,”
declares the Lord.
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
This commitment to punishment in verse 13 should be followed with rejection of a people who had already rejected God. BUT INSTEAD, God comes back with His desire to pursue and renew covenant AGAIN with a people who have caused so much pain and harm. This just really blows my mind. And it is this that God is teaching me out here in the Colorado mountains with wildflowers (aka “weeds”) all around me. Despite my own continued attempts to find other tangible things or people in my life to fill needs I think I have, which causes me to create innumerable idols out of them, God still pursues me. This idea fills my heart with hope despite my love addicted tendencies that have caused so much pain. I hope some part of it will resonate with you too, no matter what your own addictions or idols are. Allow yourself to recognize the “weeds” in your life that keep springing up, and acknowledge what God may be attempting to bring to light in your own life during these moments of aggravation. This story of pursuit in my own life is something I’ll never full understand or be able to describe. I am just in this moment,