I've always loved dandelions, especially the puffy white ones. Wild, fragile, unassuming, free, all at the same time. Not classy enough for a bouquet, but still endearing enough to bring a smile to one's face when it catches his or her eye. They remind me of my childhood, and its days spent entirely outdoors, sprinting barefoot through the grass, hunting for the treasures of nature. Of that feeling you get on birthdays, during that moment as you hold your breath just before blowing out the candles. Of transitions, whether it be the nostalgia of fall or the promise of spring. My appreciation of them grew even more in ninth grade biology class when I learned that they are edible and have countless medicinal uses and health benefits. How cool is that?
Dandelions embody so many things — simple beauty, healing, changes and life cycles, versatility, and most of all, wishes. There was this beautiful wistfulness I found in how you have to let go of all its delicate little seeds and watch them scatter out your reach, in order to make your wish. That was probably my favorite part. Until this past spring, when I gazed at them with a new perspective.
I believe it was on this one Saturday morning in March, as I walked from my residence hall to the cafeteria to get some brunch. The sun was shining, and I was grinning at the innumerable dandelions growing around me, humming my personal jam of the semester, "Be Glad" by Alanna Marie Boudreau:
Step out of yourself... step out of yourself and all your desires... Step out of yourself and watch what transpires... Step out of yourself, move toward Me... Step out of yourself and learn to be free!
Instantly I was reminded of two epiphanies I had had previously:
1. Reality is not a "disappointment" compared to how I imagine the future to be. As a person who is prone to becoming attached to certain fanciful possibilities, for years I had cautioned myself that I needed to "lower my expectations" of the things I had no control over. But one day it hit me — God knows what is best for my life. When I try to "lower my expectations," I am developing ingratitude towards His plan. Instead, I must do what I can in the present moment and trust Him to take care of the rest. For the world is in too much need for me to put all my focus on my wants. There are so many verses that support this, that I couldn't pick just one, so here are two:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future"
But first be concerned about God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be provided for you as well. So never worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
2. It also reminded me of this revelation that I had back in January, which inspired me enough to jot down in my journal:
All of your talents, your ideas, your qualities do not exist for your own glory or as ways to build yourself up. Using them this way is always misuse; you will always run dry seeking others' praise. This is why we drive ourselves miserable comparing ourselves to others- we think our talents are merely a measurement of our own greatness- when really, we differ in "levels" of this because our gifts are only meant to appeal to certain people. Our gifts are meant to be tools, methods of communication, used as little beacons of hope to those in pain, those in despair, those who feel empty, a bridge that leads the hurting to the realization that they are not alone in this world- there is always someone who loves them more than they could ever fathom, no matter what. A bridge that leads them to this person.
Prayer: Lord, help me to no longer live as a reflection of how others feel about me, but rather, as a reflection of how You feel about them.
-My personal journal
So how do these ideas relate to a dandelion?
Together, they changed the way I view the seeds.
The seeds had always been, in my mind, a fragile little bundle of opportunities to get what I wanted out of my life. (Not that I actually believed that dandelion wishes come true, of course, but it's fun to pretend.) The seeds compelled me to pluck the flower from its home, in sheer focus on myself. My desires. My hopes.
But suddenly, on this March morning, I looked at all of those puffy white dandelions, and saw them not as something I want to have, but rather as something I desire to be.
In a sense, these flowers are so self-giving. They don't stand like the others, compelling you to admire the beauty of their petals.
No. They willingly empty themselves. They allow themselves to be reduced to nothing but a stem, as their seeds are gradually scattered to wherever the wind blows them. They share the little they have with the rest of the garden. They offer their beauty to the wind, for the renewal and the growth of other flowers.
I too, want to offer my gifts, the wisdom I've obtained, my talents, my qualities, like the dandelions offer their seeds. I desire for these seeds to be used as life-giving beacons of hope, carried to those who need to need to know of One who promises to always protect them, love them, and make them whole. I wish to, like the dandelion, to use my seeds to glorify the Wind that carries them. To accept that once I have given a seed to the wind to carry away, it will be near impossible to determine the exact flower it originated from. For all of my seeds were a gift that I once myself received from the wind when He made me into a flower. They do not belong to me.
Yes, I realize we live in a world that loves to give credit to mankind, so I cannot avoid it completely. But for so long I've given myself, through deeds and expression, solely to seek recognition. I buy into the lies that this recognition will grant me my frivolous wishes for this life.
I wish to stop living this way, and to instead use my gifts for the benefits of those they reach. And to use them to glorify God, the source of any goodness in me. For once we are in union with Him in the afterlife, I know we will be so overwhelmed by His Goodness and Grace and Beauty that we will forget ourselves. We will desire nothing else.
Thus, silly as it sounds, be the dandelion. Give yourself, in loving kindness, to all of those you encounter. Use your gifts in service to others. They may not return it. They may not even recognize it. You may never be able to see the impact it will have. But the Wind will take it to where it is needed, for God says this in Isaiah 55:10-11:
Thus, I strive to desire nothing else, but for myself and for others to grow in their closeness to God, for only He can provide for and heal this world in need. I know that once I have emptied myself and become nothing but a stem for this purpose, that it won't be the end of the world. For as shown in the verse in the picture above, if I give myself to God through loving service to others, I will find new life in Him and I will leave something lasting behind.
In conclusion, to me, dandelions once embodied wishes, but now they embody sacrifice. I think this song from the Hunchback of Notre Dame really shows this contrast. While these many self-righteous people are so focused on elevating themselves and obtaining their own desires, Esmerelda from the Hunchback of Notre Dame certainly embodies the "dandelion mentality". (I recommend that you start the video at 1:11 to see where I'm getting at.)