Join to Rebecca in the YouVersion Bible app, Unexpected: Five Women in the Lineage of Jesus 
June 5, 2021


I pay too much money for you to be here, I thought, looking down at the flower that I had discovered at my feet.
8 min read

I pay too much money for you to be here, I thought, looking down at the flower that I had discovered at my feet. There, poking its head up in a space between my driveway and the lawn, a dandelion dared show its face to me—cheerily defying the myriad chemicals that my landscaping company had applied thus far in the season. How annoying. But rather than stomping on the darn thing, or pulling it up by the roots, I snapped a picture. Its bright yellow color popped against the green grass and black asphalt, seeming to broadcast a message, if only I had ears to hear.

And the small thought that kept playing in my head in the days to follow was, “It may be a weed, and you may have every right to want to destroy it, but it’s also still a flower.”


As I recall, Jesus spoke very highly of flowers, using them to illustrate the benefits afforded to believers who trust their Heavenly Father to take care of their daily needs:

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!  (Lk. 12:27-28 ESV)

When the tables are turned and it is Jesus who receives a floral gift, his words are arresting. While at dinner, Mary, sister of the resurrected Lazarus, anoints Jesus’s feet with nard (a fragrant oil derived from a flowering plant) and wipes them with her hair. When others are quick to condemn her extravagance on practical grounds (the expensive perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor), Jesus defends her both personally and prophetically:

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”     (Mk. 14:6-9 NIV)

 In other words, Mary’s beautiful act “hit the spot” for Jesus emotionally, ministering both comfort and love precisely where he might have been experiencing dread—pure human horror in the face of the agony he was about to undergo.

So on the one hand flowers help us hear Jesus say “don’t worry,” and on the other they help us hear him speak as though he was, well, worried—or at least extremely mindful of his fate. So mindful, in fact, that he encourages others to remember that death will force them to part company soon enough and that they should appreciate his presence while they can.

What this push-and-pull tells me is that a huge part of being human is having to struggle with parts of ourselves or our lives that we wish weren’t there, parts that we want to shed with a simple snap of our fingers.

We know is that in Jesus’s case, he wanted to avoid his crucifixion (“Father… take this cup from me” [Mark 14:36]) if at all possible. And we also know that although he had no besetting sins of his own to work on, he was surrounded by problems aplenty. Aside from outside enemies trying to trick (John 8:6) or kill him (John 10:31), his exasperation came from disciples who could prove faithless (Luke 8:25) and hardhearted (Mark 6:52). They dared to correct him (Peter [Matt 16:23]); betrayed him (Judas [Matt 26:16]); and abandoned him (all but John [John 19:25-27]).

Our journey looks vitally different. Not only because we’re tangled up in sin (Heb 12:1)—our own moral failings and the wrongs done to us—but because we haven’t quite yet overcome this broken world the way Jesus had when he calmed its storms and walked upon its waters. Sometimes we try and try, pour and pour, give and give so much of ourselves, and the needle moves only a little. We count up the hours, days, weeks, and years, and when we look at the resulting fruit in our basket, the harvest seems so meager, so poor. And if we’re honest, maybe we think: where’s all this joyful, abundant life Jesus was talking about (John 15:11)? Is that just reserved for the righteous? The people who’ve got it all together—the people with perfect lawns?

Let me pull back the curtain here and offer an example from the middle of my own life—literally. For reasons I don’t need to go into, I am medically unable to lose weight right now, and it shows up—you guessed it—mostly around my tummy. Despite strict diet control (under medical supervision) and daily, vigorous exercise, the weight that came on when I started taking certain medications to help with my condition simply won’t come off.

It doesn’t matter how much of a caloric deficit I put myself in daily. I’m stuck. And I dare not get to a pattern where I am eating so little that I (1) fall into disordered eating or (2) find I haven’t the energy to take care of my very active eight-year-old autistic son.

I look in the mirror and do not recognize the person staring back at me, mainly because I have been thin for much of my life. And, because I naturally gravitate toward discipline, I’m used to achieving the goals I set for myself, given enough time, effort, and encouragement.

Not so here.

By my calculations, I’ve been trapped in what I think of as my “elephant suit” for about 2-3 years. And my sense is that it is not God’s priority for me to lose weight at this time. That He wants me to keep up my healthy habits, be grateful for my medical resources, and focus on other things He has in store, such as introducing new strategies into my son’s developmental therapies and working on writing projects.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that He wants to use this dead end as an opportunity to get at some old wounds I suffered in middle school. Hurts that set me on an internal path of rejecting my physical body. (Ask me how excited I am about that prospect, though it would be amazing to be free of some old self-hatreds.)

In sum, when I look in the mirror and see a weed that should be consigned to the fire, God sees a flower of vibrant color. Something that belongs in the same creative category as lilies and roses.

Now I understand that He’s the Lord—my Creator and Redeemer. He calls the shots in this relationship. But that doesn’t mean I like or even fully comprehend the choices He’s currently making for me. Many days I still wake up thinking, “How little can I eat today? How much harder can I exercise?” Because part of me is still convinced—despite all evidence to the contrary—that if I try just a little harder, I can beat this thing. And then, maybe, I might be able to love and accept myself. At least a tiny bit.

When I step back and look at this attitude, at this worm wriggling in the back of my brain that won’t quite die, I see it’s sinful. Scary. Because what if I were to apply such a lens to my son?

I’ll love and accept you when you say more words.

Stop your troublesome behaviors.

Go with the flow—try new things.

Hide your autism better.


As much physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy that my son costs my husband and me, we do not love him any less for it. Paradoxically, we may even love him more, exhausted though we may be. Because he needs that extra love as he struggles with his deficits—trying to express his wants and needs in a body that does not always cooperate. Thinking with a brain that does not process information the way others typically do. I’m not sure what my son sees when he looks in the mirror, but I’m certain there are times he feels the ponderous weight of his own elephant suit, suffocating the life out of him.

The difference between us? He doesn’t shame or blame himself for his struggles, whereas I do, to the nth degree. Somewhere along the line—again, probably in middle school for me, when adolescent bodies begin to change and kids can get mean about it—I swallowed the lie that I was supposed to look a certain, perfect way. And when I didn’t turn out like that, I clung to the fact that at least I was naturally skinny. Having that last thread ripped away from me recently left me a naked Eve in Eden, desperately looking for some kind of covering. Hard work didn’t produce it, just as it hasn’t cured my son’s autism.

What do we do when our best efforts seem so weedy? When the plans we’ve invested in, body and soul, don’t materialize and we’re completely spent? What if we feel shortchanged or even cheated by God? Like He’s not holding up His end of the deal?

How do we get ahold of the love and acceptance we need then, both for ourselves and for others, no matter what shape we—or they—are in?

1) First, we have to look down—see those dandelions at our feet.

And by that I mean we have to be brutally honest about the deep disappointment and distress we are experiencing. No minimizing, sugarcoating, deflecting. We have to tell God exactly how we feel about our situation, and that usually involves taking a trusted person into our confidence who can accompany us through our process.

When Jeremiah, faithful prophet, found himself persecuted on the job appointed to him by God, he minced no words about it:

You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. (Jer. 20:7 NIV)

If there’s an area of your life where you’ve shelled out too much in exchange for the lousy results you’ve received, then lift your lament before the Lord. It’s a necessary step forward.

2) Then we have to look in—to ask the Holy Spirit to show us where our thinking has become sinful and/or scary.

And by “sinful” I mean harmful if applied to a person made in God’s image. And, yes, that includes you. Somewhere along the way did you form an attitude or belief, some impossible standard that you are holding yourself to? Or maybe you feel entitled to some treasure (true love, good health, wealth, vocational success) that God never promised you, and when you watch others succeed where you are failing, you find yourself drowning in bitterness and confusion.

Where’s the lie? Ask the searcher of all hearts to help you root it out:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Ps. 139:23-24 ESV

Interestingly, the word translated as “grievous” above derives from the Hebrew root עצב (et-ZEV), which describes the kind of pain experienced in childbirth—definitely on the extreme end of the spectrum. It is the pain God curses Eve with in Gen 3:16 and experiences Himself when his own offspring, humankind, turns out to be irredeemably evil (Gen 6:6). Far from praying for superficial change, the psalmist is asking God to remove an inherent self-perpetuating evil from him, and we would do well to do the same.

3) Finally, look up. After you’ve given voice to your anger, your disappointment, after you’ve prayed for a real, fundamental change, take a seat at the table with Jesus. Lift up your head and gaze into his eyes. Let him love on you. My guess is that the reason Mary acted so extravagantly is because Jesus’s resurrection of her brother was so stupendous. She just had to respond in kind.

When we realize that everything in our lives—from the exalted lily to the humble dandelion—is some form of gift from God, then we will want to do a beautiful thing for Him. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to prayerfully seek out someone (maybe it’s yourself) for whom you can “hit the spot” with a kind word or deed. Because when you’ve done it to that person, you’ve done it unto Him (Matt 25:40).

Look, I know these three points are pretty obvious. And I confess, my self-acceptance level regarding my weight still remains pretty low. (Ask me to run over someone’s granny for an instant 10 lb. drop and I’d be sorely tempted.)

But I think I’m onto something when I ask myself, “Now why would the Creator of the universe package a weed inside a flower? It tells me that there’s something to be gained from this struggle with maximum effort and minimum fruit.

I don’t want to look back down the road and wish I hadn’t wasted so much time on self-hatred when I could have lived a happier, more grace-filled life. Because if there’s anything I need more of, it’s grace. It’s to see the beautiful things of God happening all around me and decide it’s finally time to let down my hair and break open that bottle of perfume I’ve been saving.

Jesus, here I come.