Don't be a tumbleweed
Springtime in New Mexico is both beautiful and harsh. Fruit trees blossom in spectacular whites and pinks. Daffodils and crocuses make their way up through the ground to show their regal yellow and purple faces. But the winds howl, tumbleweeds go barreling down roads, and abundant weeds make the masses suffer terribly with allergies.
There is an agitation that accompanies spring. There are plenty of bare trees that resist sprouting their leaves until consistent warm weather becomes the norm. People eager for new growth and new life want to start planting gardens, but the threat of one last freeze lingers in the air. And did I mention the wind?
Spring paints in nature a picture of what I see playing out in the personalities of those living and working in my community. There are the beautiful bloomers, who proudly display the hopefulness within them. There are the evergreens, who have weathered every season and still look the same. There are the barren trees, seemingly devoid of life. Then there are the weeds, green and quickly multiplying before the heat dries them out.
Despite outward appearances, all these living, growing elements have a lot in common. They need sunlight and water and air. They were created to grow and germinate. They have a “job” to do, whether it’s bearing fruit or providing shade, shelter, or fuel.
Like plants, we humans also have a common “core.” We need food, water, and air. We were created for a purpose. The question is whether we recognize or understand what that purpose is.
Recently, I was asked to review a paper by my friend Harvey L. Diamond. In his research, he made two profound key points about identity:
1. “The issue of identity has been one with which many have wrestled. Deep down, many people have varying dimensions of inner identity crises and deal with it in a variety of ways. The complexities of life in our current world, however, have made the issue of identity a growing concern for humanity and society in general.”
2. “So, they find socially acceptable ways to mask and cope with their insecurities. Failing to deal with inner issues, however, is the fruit of the deeper issues of contempt. It inevitably leads to all sorts of conflict. People forget their true selves or aren’t in touch with their inner self, so they are ignorant of their God-given identity. So, the mask becomes the new identity.”
Never have I seen this phenomenon played out more clearly than at a public meeting I recently attended. When problems were brought up, it became obvious that territoriality and fear were overshadowing reason and gentility. Respect for authority had been replaced with contempt and judgement of other people. Vying for position, whether for authority or for financial gain or security, had led to hopelessness and discouragement.
This failure to understand identity impacts business, government (because it is made up of humans), ministry, and culture. Without a clear understanding of who one is and what one has been created to do, “weed” thinking dominates the landscape, spreading far and wide with no depth of root and little or no positive impact on its surroundings.
The tumbleweed stands out in my mind as the vilest of weeds. If you’re living in the Southwest, you’ve likely experienced driving along and having this massive rolling ball of thistles come careening at your car. Instinct makes you want to swerve and avoid it. Usually, some or all of the massive brown ball lodges itself in the undercarriage of your car, and you can hear it scraping on the pavement for miles.
While my initial assessment of the outspoken people with rough exteriors at the community meeting caused me to categorize them all in the tumbleweed category, I had to remind myself that unlike plants, we human beings have purpose that is not seasonal or temporary. We may feel dried out and used up, but that feeling is a failure to understand our true identity.
If we are to draw inspiration from nature, let us be like the evergreens. While they don’t get the glory of blossoming and showing off their beauty, they do stay full year round. Through the wind, rain, snow, and heat, they serve as a steady reminder of dignity, support, and protection.
In reflecting on your true identity, consider whether you’ve bought into a counterfeit or superficial version, trying to define your value by circumstance or achievement. That isn’t God’s definition of who you are. He says that you have been created in His image and likeness. So, as the winds blow on your life, let them blow away the tumbleweeds; and root yourself firmly in who He’s called and made you to be. That, my friends, will lead to personal and community transformation.