Many times through the years, I’ve joked about being a “delicate flower.” Generally, this is what I say when there’s heavy lifting to be done that I don’t want to do, LOL, or when my husband is teasing me and I’m trying to convince him (sort of) to stop.
I say it because it’s funny…but it’s only funny because we all know it’s not true.
Now, I’m not a large person by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a whopping 5’3″ over here, and not exactly a weight-lifter. So I do have definite physical limitations. There are feats I simply cannot perform. But I’m not delicate. Maybe I look that way, but ask my family when it’s moving day–I will probably heft more boxes over the course of the day than just about anyone. Where I come from, you might be small, but you work your rear off when there’s work to be done.
I’ve also long joked about my sensibilities. To a certain extent, I embraced naivete. There are quite simply things I had no desire to expose myself to, and I still don’t. But I’m also part of a world that doesn’t agree with my sensibilities. I’ve answered phones at an insurance office and occasionally had disgruntled clients using some very, er, colorful language. I could have chosen to be offended–and was, honestly, quite shocked that someone would call a place of business and talk like that. But I decided that I wasn’t going to be a delicate flower there either.
Because if I choose to be offended at everything offensive in the world, if I choose to let it affect me rather than just lifting my chin and showing a better way, then I’m never going to get away from that, right? I’m always going to be offended. The Bible tells us time and again that offenses will come. The advice of Paul and Jesus? Just don’t be the one by whom they come. #BeBetter than that. In the Gospels, this instruction is about not leading others into sin. But I think it also applies to our own minds–don’t let other lead us into the trap of always focusing on what they’re doing. We need to focus instead on what WE need to do.
I’ve mentioned before the book The Coddling of the American Mind, which I’ve been listening to on audio. In this book, the authors point out that many college-aged students right now have the mistaken belief that they’re fragile. That they need someone to step in and stop things whenever ideas are too challenging and cause them emotional distress, whenever they feel any slight or bias against them, whenever something might be construed as dangerous–not just to their physical bodies, but to their peace of mind.
This is a sad trend, but one I can quite easily believe. I don’t know how many times in recent years I’ve heard someone saying they can’t imagine letting their kids do the things that they did when they were the same age. Walk three blocks alone to the local ice cream shop? Heavens, no! Go adventuring through the countryside without an adult? Are you kidding? And yet, the world is SO MUCH SAFER now than it was twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty years ago. Crime rates are at an all time low…but perception is something else entirely. We have it in our heads that we must protect our kids from…well, from everything. But studies have shown that when we do that, what we’re really teaching our kids is that they can’t handle it. That the world’s out to get them. That they’re fragile–they’re delicate flowers, and the world’s just waiting to crush them.
This is so untrue, my friends. It’s untrue first because people are just stronger than that. And especially if we have the Spirit of God inside us, lending us His strength on top of our own. What did Jesus tell us to do when someone hurts us? To pray for them. When they attack us? Turn the other cheek. When they won’t accept our beliefs? Shake the dust from our feet. Jesus told us NOT to be offended over every little thing, NOT to be delicate flowers. He told us to persevere. He told us to stand strong in Him. He told us to face dangers and persecution for the sake of Truth. That sounds pretty darn not-delicate to me, right? No fragility there. Faith makes us stronger, not weaker. Because we’re grounded on the Rock.
I want to keep my kids safe…but I also want them to be fully functioning adults, capable of standing strong in the face of the world. I want them to appreciate the beauty of flowers without thinking they’re as fragile as those blooms. Frankly, I want them to see how stubborn some flowers are as they cling to the cliff side, flourishing in the most adverse of conditions. And that means letting them take risks. It means teaching them that beliefs must be challenged if they’re really going to understand why they believe them. It means knowing that they don’t have to choose to be offended just because something is offensive. They can choose to be bigger than that instead. They can choose to lift their chins and keep pressing on.
There are abuses in this world–genuine, horrific ones. There are tragedies. There are crimes. But when we magnify every little thing to that level, all we’re doing is teaching ourselves that we’re more delicate than we are. And taking away from what we really should be focusing on changing.
We’re stronger than we think we are. Our kids and grandkids are stronger than we often let them be. We are not flowers.
Or…no, maybe we are. But not the kind that flourishes in the meadow, here today and gone tomorrow. If we’re flowers, then we’re a heartier kind. Not delicate. Not fragile. We’re the kind clinging to the Solid Rock, beautiful in the face of the tempest.