I hate goatheads. Especially when they prick me late at night when I get my cereal snack barefoot. But, even though they bug the crap out of me, they do remind me that God isn’t some wish-granting genie in a bottle. If we want better lives, we already have all we need to get those better lives and we shouldn’t pray as though God’s supposed to make things better just because we pray. We have what we need.
Goatheads start off in life as little yellow flowers. Those flowers allow the plant to reproduce through pollination, just like every other flowering plant. In time, the flower fades and gives way to a green bulb with little green prongs. As the summer turns to fall, the green bulb dries and becomes my little prickly nemesis: The goathead. The goathead is meant to protect the plant, just like the thorns on a rosebush. This process of reproduction and then protection amazes me every time I walk past one of those goathead plants. It’s almost a perfect structure of purposeful behavior at each stage of the plant’s development. And it works, too: Goathead plants grow and would take over my backyard if I let them.
Here’s the thing: The power of all life is that, by nature, every living thing has everything it needs to grow and adapt to life’s ebbs and flows. Look around, there’s life happening all the time without any one having to do anything. Life has what it needs.
Now, it’s not easy for anything. Each and every thing has to earn its keep, even the goathead plant’s seeds have to find suitable soil in which to grow. However, the work is rewarded with more life. Humanity is no different than any other life on Earth, with the exception that, not only do we have to earn our keep, but we also have to think about it. It’s the thinking part of life that can get in our way.
See, we all have we what need to address the situations we face in our lives. But all too often, we don’t think we do. When things are bad, we do all we can to pray the bad things away and then find ourselves resentful when God-as-genie doesn’t make the bad things go away. Or, if we want something, we pray to God-as-genie with the thought that God will give that something we want. All too often, though, God-as-genie leaves us thinking that we are alone because we didn’t get what we want, even though we prayed for it.
One of Einstein’s famous quotes is, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I dig that quote because all too often, we put ourselves in situations for which we aren’t suited and then think that we are failures as people when we don’t find success. Really, each day provides every single person scenarios that can teach us. We must learn those lessons; otherwise, we will find ourselves in similar situations over and over again until we figure it out. Our lives are the message from God: We have what we need.
We all have hard times and we can overcome them with some reflective thought coupled with forward-looking action. We can all achieve our goals in life, with a plan and forward-moving steps towards the goal. God has given all of us the tools we need to both overcome the hard times and achieve the goals we set for our lives. But it’s up to us to use the tools that we have within the situations for which we are suited.
I had thought about becoming a doctor when I was a kid, but the thought of blood and bodily fluids has always grossed me out. That alone would have made it hard to be a doctor. So I didn’t become a doctor. My grandma wanted me to become a priest, but I liked girls way too much for that, so I didn’t become a priest. Had I tried to become either a doctor or a priest, I would have failed miserably. But life has always provided me evidence that I can write and that I can teach, so that’s what I became: A writer and a teacher.
God provides all the answers to the questions we face within our souls. We must search ourselves and it isn’t ever easy, but if have a strong suspicion that we are meant for something, we probably are meant for that. But it takes thought and action to become anything and to overcome obstacles. Prayer is key and I can’t tell anyone how they should pray. But I try to thank God for the challenges I face because it’s through those challenges that I am figuring out who I am. I even thank God for those stupid goatheads. Turns out, they are quite the teacher.