“We have to stop NOW, Mom.”
The urgent plea came as I searched for a safe place to pull over alongside the highway. Once again, there would be no time to find a suitable exit. An air of annoyance filled the car along with a sense we truly might not ever get to our destination at this pace, as this would be the 4th stop in less than 6 hours.
The second the van door opened, Luke hopped out desperately. He didn’t look to see if other cars or people were present. He didn’t wait for permission or instruction. He simply hopped out and did what desperate little boys do when they can’t get to the bathroom. For a moment, I chuckled inside thinking of all the times I’ve seen a little boy do such a thing with no real concern for the societal demands of a formal restroom.
But the inner chuckle quickly welled up into tears as I watched him. There was no ignoring the truth. He wasn’t a little boy anymore. He was nearly 8. And the need for this stop was one of several lingering signs that his body would never again be the same after cancer. In this moment, it was hard to watch him deal with things none of us will ever understand this side of heaven. It was hard to help the others find compassion when they couldn’t fathom it either. But mostly it was hard to be the mama bear who has learned the hard way that protecting her cubs isn’t always within reach.
The highway itself wasn’t major and I needed to stretch my legs, so I called for everyone to get out and walk a little. The fresh air and warmth of sunshine would make our detour a little more joyful. Tall green blades of grass swayed in the breeze as we looked out over the pastures and farms in the distance.
Luke picked up a dandelion puff and called to me. “Mom, make a wish.”
I smiled as he blew the white wispy petals through the air into my hair and onto my clothing. He closed his eyes when the stem grew bare and sighed.
“I wished for the bakery.”
His words swelled a sweetness in my heart that couldn’t be contained or explained. I watched in awe as the petals fell to the ground. The bakery? It was hard to fathom his fondness for the very place we visited in an attempt to keep our minds off of medical tests. It was a tradition of sorts only “celebrated” after each MRI. An event most consider to be full of anxiety and potential dread as doctors image the brain tumor for updates, my sweet boy finds the post-MRI bakery pure joy.
The imagery of the dandelion in his hand wasn’t lost on me.
As beautiful as it seems to children, the dandelion puff is a weed plucked out and despised by the gardener. Its yellow flowers are not a joy, but a despised “thorn.” The white puff itself is a sign of death as it’s the final stage of the flower. Truly, the whole dandelion plant is a curse to the pristine grass most people so desperately try to grow around it.
And yet, in its own way, the dandelion is beautiful. In its own way, it reminds us to hope in the Lord as those little wispy petals fall.
That in itself would be enough to make it cherished, but there’s more. Despite its curse to the ground, the dandelion has powerful medicinal uses. That is, if you can stomach its extremely bitter taste.
I couldn’t help but think how similar the dandelion is to cancer and ALL of the trials we face here on earth. It’s not something you EVER would plant in your garden. In fact, it’s something you fight desperately to rid yourself of and yet even with its bitter taste, it’s something beautiful, medicinal… even healing.
Healing to you and healing to everyone blessed enough to be in the path when you blow its wispy petals of hope. The beauty of its healing is contagious. As you share through the bitterness of life’s dandelion “thorns,” you can’t help but bring joy into the lives of those around you.
You know, it’s often said that the greatest mystery in life is understanding the purpose of suffering, evil, and sadness when God is so good. I must admit this hardly seems a mystery at all. Anyone blessed enough to find a dandelion in their path has learned the truth about its bitterness.
It’s actually through the suffering, evil, and sadness we see clearly just how good God really is. It’s through the unwanted weeds and thorns in our lives where we find sweet fellowship with the Lord and hope that endures all things. Truly, it’s only through the alleged “curse” of the dandelion (insert your own flavor here) that we can truly experience the depth of God’s goodness.
As I watched Luke hold the dandelion that day, I saw so much more than a little boy plagued by urinary urgency from 15 months of chemo. I saw a boy who purposed to blow petals of hope and faith on anyone willing to get close enough to share their beauty. A boy who never once saw the bitter dandelion thorn of cancer as something he was trying to get rid of, but something that brought him great joy, peace, and faith even in the pain.
Lessons learned from the dandelion thorns in life
Just as a dandelion will grow anywhere (even in a crack in the sidewalk) and under any circumstances, as Christians, we too can grow and bloom wherever God plants us.
The word dandelion, meaning lion’s tooth, is fitting not just for this flower that grows under any circumstances, it reminds us to never give up the fight of faith.
Like the dandelion, some things in life can only be learned through the pruning or dying of treasured dreams. Sure those yellow petals were beautiful, but we would never experience the sheer pleasure and joy of blowing that white puff into the glistening sun if the plant hadn’t died.
As those around us watch us blow the wispy petals of life’s bitter, unwanted pruning, God puts a new song in our mouth so that many will see His faithfulness and trust in Him. (Psalm 40:3)
As Christians, we should have roots like the dandelion, so deep and persistent, even when someone tries to pluck us up, they fail. No matter what happens to us, we will always grow back stronger because our roots of faith can NOT be damaged.
Some things in life taste bitter like the dandelion, and yet at the same time provide for us the deepest of healing.
And finally, a lesson from Luke: When you can’t hope for the thing your heart really desires, find something beautiful in the midst of the pain and let its beauty fill your heart. This, my friend, is the deepest, most rewarding kind of joy, and it all starts with right thinking about the goodness of God.
I pray the dandelions will remind you of the goodness of God and the hope we have in Jesus, no matter what kind of dandelion thorns are in your life today.
Take time to refocus your thinking on God’s truth with the #NotConsumed Devotional. It will empower you to stand strong in faith. Click here for more details.