by Lorraine E. Espenhain
I’m reading The Story of a Soul, which is the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, who often referred to herself as God’s “Little Flower.”
Sometimes when I read something, I am forced to put down the book in order to absorb and reflect more fully on whatever it was that I just read. This is probably why it takes me much longer to read books than it does my husband. I’m a sponge. I like to soak up everything that is contained in a book.
A Beautiful Childhood
St. Therese was raised in a very loving and supportive family. Both of her parents lavished her with affection and love, as did all of her sisters. St. Therese readily admitted, however, that she believed it was necessary for her to have been raised in such an environment. Otherwise, she would not have been able to survive the harshness of life in this world. Referring to herself as “God’s Little Flower,” this is what she wrote about her loving and supportive childhood:
“If God had not poured out His light so lavishly upon His “little flower,” I never could have become acclimatized to earth, for I would have been too frail to weather the rain and storm. I needed to have warmth, gentle dew, and the soft breezes of spring….”
Warmth, gentle dew, and the soft breezes of spring. As I meditated on those words, I said to myself, “What human being doesn’t need those things, and yet, how many of us have not known them because they were withheld from us for a variety of reasons?” I then found myself starting to feel somewhat gypped because, truth be told, I was raised in a completely different environment. Little feelings of resentment then began to sprout up in an attempt to entangle me in self-pity, while the devil whispered in my ear, “Just think what you could have achieved for Christ if He had planted you in the same kind of environment.” Sssssssssssssss!
Tempted to Resent
Falling for Satan’s bait, I then found myself no longer reading and reflecting, but questioning and almost accusing God. “Lord, why was I not permitted to flourish in such an environment? Why did you lavish these things on St. Therese, but not me? Where was my “gentle dew and soft spring breezes?” Did she mean more to you than I that you could plant her in a loving garden and me in a barren desert?
As I continued to reflect on this, God opened up my heart to a wonderful truth. He showed me a cactus.
Unlike lovely flowers in gardens, which require constant tending, “gentle dew,” and “spring breezes,” the cactus has a much stronger constitution, for it does not need these things in order to survive and thrive. Because of the toughness of the cactus, it is able to take root and flourish in an environment where nothing can grow without a struggle.
Unlike the gentle little flower, the cactus defies every odd that moves against its growth and survival. It stands in the barren wasteland green, strong, and unconquerable as a testimony to the power of God who created it for His glory, honor, and praise, just as He created the violet, the daisy, and the rose.
A Different Strength
If St. Therese of Lisieux was God’s “Little Flower,” then I am His “Cactus.” St. Therese and I were both planted by the same God, for the glory of God, but in very different soil.
If His glory is seen throughout the earth, this also includes the desert, the barren wasteland where nothing can thrive or survive apart from His power. God is glorified everywhere. He plants us where He chooses, not because he loves one more than the other but because He desires to be glorified in different ways all throughout His creation.
For me, there was no “gentle dew and soft spring breezes,” but like the cactus in the desert, I not only survived, I thrived…
….and in the process my God glorified.
Header Image CC Calvo Pastor