Spear thistles are my favorite. They have beautiful purple-pink flowers that contrast starkly with the deep, healthy green of the stem and leaves. Thistles provide a substantial amount of nectar for all kinds of pollinators, but are almost unanimously described as “short-lived” and “sometimes annuals, sometimes perennials.” Fickle, fleeting, pretty weeds. Thistles are beautiful, until they are used up, run out of nectar and serve no purpose. Then they are discarded and exterminated. I have cultivated and operated in thistle mentality for almost every single second of my 37 years. I’ve gotten excellent at it. Parts of it have become hard-wired as parts of me.
My purpose has always been to make others feel good about themselves. Take all the nectar. Enjoy the pretty flowers. Sure, please take it all. I don’t mind… When they feel good about themselves, I, in turn, feel good about myself. I have entertained entire friendships and romantic relationships simply because I didn’t want to make another human feel bad about themselves or experience any kind of pain at my hand… Unwrapping a microwave around the tree at some poor fool’s family Christmas and thanking his parents with a robotic smile because I didn’t want him to feel less of a person because he bored me to tears. Being a people pleaser has created more hurt than disappointing honesty ever could. And, just so we are absolutely clear, being a “people pleaser” is code for looking for love in all the wrong places. For real, Johnny Lee. I see you. Unfortunately, my life was a country song… that one… for a really long time. Lest we lose steam, let’s journey on…
“People pleasing” in all forms is a sneaky, subconscious way to soothe bleeding hearts and coddle deep wounds still infected by past pain. Historically speaking, it has unfailingly served as a comforting, addicting way to pat myself on the head and tell myself I am pretty and smart and all the things when no one else feels tasked with the burden. When my nectar is gone and my kind of pretty elicits boredom from whosoever’s attention I’m craving at the present time in life, I have habitually exhausted every avenue available to give, give, give of myself, making the bearer of my self-worth “happy” and, in turn, gotten a little hit off of that… just enough to hold me over until the next time. All of those unsightly relationship choices that made no sense to anyone and lasted way past their expiration date? Life choices that were made solely benefiting anyone and everyone but myself? All the times I took the harder road because it would make a particular situation better for someone else who barely knew my name? The thistle is pretty and provides all kinds of nectar, but isn’t so much about self-care or self-respect. We’re uprooting them all. They’re clearly weeds.
Matthew 15:13 grabs me with both hands every single time I cruise by it, or, every single time it is thrown at the dead center of my forehead, as it has been consistently for a few months. There aren’t coincidences when scripture is involved. I don’t know many things for sure but I know that. Sometimes I unsuccessfully attempt to ignore and disregard scripture when it is quite literally shoved in front of my stubborn eye holes. There you go, Chassati… circle that mountain for forty years and see how that works for you… I preach to my children daily about good versus bad choices resulting in good versus bad consequences, and my grown self has chosen to make bad choices for years and decades. I’ve basically been asking – praying – begging – for huge sweeping change, and I haven’t honestly been open to it. The actions have not matched the intent. I confuse myself, so I’ve been praying about and mulling over (which is often the same thing) what changes must be made. Die to self. Eyes on God. What prevents change? What keeps us comfortably underperforming and clinging to mediocrity as if every shred of life in our mortal bodies depends on it?
Habits. Debilitating situations and relationships have corroded the hardwiring, creating habitual, short circuits that subconsciously deploy when presented with forward movement and progress. An opportunity for positive change and growth, you say? No, thank you, Creator of the Universe. I have habits in place to protect me from such change. I will contentedly and securely sit right here and marinate in my functioning, numb apathy. Blind, trusted muscle memory and constant fear of the unknown have kept me repeating the same patterns and muscling through the same lukewarm, septic habits for longer than I care to admit. False security and mediocrity are comfortable, debilitating diseases. I have quite literally been circling the mountain for almost as long the Israelites. This could have taken around 11 days… or even 11 years would be better than almost 40. “You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward.” (Deuteronomy 2:3 ESV) Okay, God. I hear you.
We obviously have to rip out most of the hardwiring, uproot the weeds, and start over. The hardwiring is the most labor-intensive to reroute and replace and the pretty weeds are the hardest to uproot. However, after gross amounts of neglect over the course of decades, the wiring is corroded and the weeds have become so dense that we can’t see anything else. The wiring has to be redone and the weeds have to go. Not the tiny, insignificant periphrial repairs I hoped God would point out and disspell with the wave of His capable hand, but the big, huge cornerstones of what 37 years of being me and living like me and thinking and feeling like me have birthed. God, show me what changes need to take place. Show me how I can best serve you. Ask and you shall receive – and I am receiving. ALL. THE. THINGS.
Things I know for sure: Changes required of me right now in November of 2018 are complete and staggering. Mo Isom says it best. “Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.” Wow, okay. Seriously, folks. Put on your leathers and get ready to ride. Also, truths and expectations and callings can and will flow in and out of the socially-acceptable perimeters set by our family, friends, and traditional church. AND they can change. Coloring outside of the lines is encouraged.
Our little family is in a season of change and progress and growth. All three of us individually and the collective “we.” In order to lean into this season and be maliable, we have to surrender to God’s path for our lives and forget all traces of our own whims and fantasies. My fantasies have been a huge source of comfort for me since I was a tiny child, and its a security blanket that has been surprisingly hard to let go. I never viewed them as damaging before, but they are. I’ve spent a lot of my life in hurtful situations and relationships where being present meant being raw, exposed, attacked and bleeding constantly. My goal was to not be present in the present, and my own mind was the most effective and safest escape.
I heard a sermon about a year ago (that I can’t properly site because I’ve slept since then) that directed listeners to include God in all fantasies and daydreams and consciously note how different they looked when He was present. The before and after was a gut punch for me. My consistent prayer for about a year has been to clearly hear God’s voice above all of the others and to find my purpose and pursue it relentlessly for His glory, however, He was not included not once anywhere in the secret places I escaped to in my own mind and heart. He wasn’t ever there with me in my hiding places. I further discovered, quite alarmingly, that I was excluding God on purpose, because His path is the “harder” road to travel and my mind and heart, in the midst of the aforementioned situations and relationships, screamed for relief and ease and reprieve a lot louder than God knocked on the door. The knocks always come in the still and quiet of seeking. I was not wholeheartedly seeking, and I was definitely not still and quiet. I was just surviving. Physically breathing in and out and bracing myself for the next blow, and coping by retreating into the secret places in my mind and heart devoid of God or anyone or anything else that could potentially comfort me me but most probably hurt me. Including God in my fantasies and daydreams takes a lot of conscious effort and rewiring on my part, but grace and hope are powerful forces. The Holy Spirit, who embodies hope, alters the perspective of change from scary and downright offensive to new, exciting, opportunity and growth.
We’re on to something for sure, y’all. Habits must change. Fields must be gleaned. Chains must be broken. Purposes and paths will be discovered and rediscovered and rerouted. Stay tuned.