2017-01_lt-littleflower

Healthy Soul/Lessons Learned/Living Out Your Faith/My Life

What it Means to be a Little Flower in God’s Garden

Loving myself is hard.

I make a lot of mistakes. I say obnoxious things, I doubt, and I often live under the illusion that I have all the answers all the time. When others’ opinions and gifts are acknowledged, I can feel pride tugging at my heart. Will they see my gifts? Why doesn’t anyone see how hard I try? Maybe I’m not as good as they are… My pride fills my head with the fear of not being enough, and it seems impossible to stop it.

You know what else is hard? Humility. Most of the time, humility feels like an impossible task to me, because even the thought that I might have actually improved feels like pride, therefore crushing all of my efforts.

But the hardest thing is putting the two together. How can I love myself and be humble? Often, these two things seem to contradict each other and it feels like we have to choose one over the other. But the truth is that God wants both of these things for us, because they are both good things. And the more I pray about it the more I realize that humility actually teaches me to love myself.

What Is Humility?

I’ve heard a lot of definitions for humility, but my favorite comes from a simple statement from St. Thomas Aquinas: “Whatever pertains to defect is man’s; but whatever pertains to man’s welfare and perfection is God’s.”

To be humble simply means to know the truth of this statement in our hearts. It means acknowledging in my heart and in my actions that my very existence is completely dependent on God and that all my gifts are His rather than mine; all that we are comes from Him. It’s not easy, though. My pride and my fears tell me that in order to be worthy, I have to be the best and attribute my gifts to myself, rather than to my Father. I want to be great, but I’m afraid to be little.

The Little Flower

There’s one saint I’ve been completely fascinated with for as long as I can remember: Saint Therese of Lisieux. She is often called “the Little Flower” because she imagined herself as a little flower in God’s garden of souls. As she put it, “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”

What fascinates me about Therese is that she wasn’t afraid to be little; she loved her littleness. She had great ambitions for her spiritual life and desired to make the greatest sacrifices for God, but she felt too weak to accomplish them. But she realized that it was her littleness and child-like faith that made her precious to God, and so it was precious to her, too. She understood that even in loving God she was “borrowing” God’s own love.

We Are Dust

So why is it that I most struggle to love myself when I’ve fallen into pride?

Pride happens when we attribute the things of God to ourselves instead of to Him, but, in recognizing her littleness, Saint Therese could see clearly all the gifts God had given her. She was a loving friend, a devoted Sister, and a beautiful poet, and she saw these attributes for what they were—gifts from her Father. Knowing her weakness opened her eyes to God’s immense love for her.

The immeasurable value of every life comes from the dignity of being loved into existence by our Father. If I deny my dependence on Him, then I’m denying who I am and where my value comes from. If I attribute my gifts to myself, then they are no longer gifts and I blind myself to the reason behind these gifts—the love of God. But when I let go of my fears and call on my Father for help, I start to see how helpless I am without Him, and I realize that He values me far more than I value myself.

In her autobiography, Therese admits to falling asleep during prayer, but she explains why this doesn’t trouble her: “So I just think that God knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Far from thinking of this as a sad statement, she allowed her weakness to teach her about the greatness of God’s mercy. Our Father is hardly surprised when His children run too fast and fall. He’s right there, ready to pick us up and help us to keep going.

If A Flower Could Speak

Still, allowing ourselves to be humbled is no easy thing. The good news is that our God grants us grace in small steps. It’s in the small moments when I feel forgotten or jealous, when I’m longing to be noticed, that God wants to instruct my heart in His ways. He wants to teach me to acknowledge my littleness, to believe that I am His, and to feel the outpouring of His love with my every heartbeat.

He wants to teach me to value the gifts He has given to others. I should be more focused on acknowledging the gifts of others—and seeing God in those people—than on hoping that someone will see Him in me. Like the Litany of Humility says, “That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.”

Humility is hard. There’s no denying that. But there’s no need to be afraid of it, because, far from asking me to deny my gifts, humility teaches me to see my gifts more clearly and to rejoice in the greatness of my Father. All I have to do is be brave and follow after Him.

“If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case.” –St. Therese of Lisieux

About the Author

Sophia Swinford

I'm a theology student at St. Mary's in London, but I'm still an Arizona girl at heart. I basically live off books, coffee, rainy days, and conversations about Jesus, who has stolen my heart and never given it back!