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Milk thistle flowerheadDad's favorite flower, he said, was the common thistle. We never knew if this was true, or if he just wanted to solidify his reputation for being a prickly type of character.

“I eat kids like you for breakfast!” he would growl occasionally. Of course we knew that this man who worked two jobs and grew a small farm-sized vegetable garden to feed his eight kids was demonstrating great love most of the time, despite the gruff exterior.

Over the years I, too, have grown to love thistles. Not only do they attract fritillary butterflies for their nectar and goldfinches for their seeds, they are downright pretty. I have not yet bought the extra thick, long gloves necessary to gather a bouquet of them. Seriously, I really have wanted to do that!

How serious am I about being around prickly people? Not so much as I am about the spiny flowers. Nobody wants to be hurt. It is hard to love people who will not love you back.

Melitaea phoebe butterflyPeople who rub you the wrong way are always going to be part of your life. Yes, and there will always be a few really painful thistle types, too.

My challenge is to see the beauty in the thorny people in my life. It is said that the pessimist complains about roses having thorns, while the optimist rejoices that thorn bushes bear roses. It is the same principle as the glass being half empty or half full, depending on your perspective.

While we are on the subject of perspective, I wonder; how prickly do I seem to others? Do my words sting? Does my attitude and demeanor cause people to recoil in fear of being stabbed? Maybe they cannot see my soft purple center because of the sharp barbs that characterize my nature.

Goldfinch at thistle seedsSome of our prickliness, however, is a matter of perspective from a worldly standpoint.

“For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the pagans choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living — and they slander you. They will give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:3 – 5, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

We may seem prickly to people who do not understand the reason we live the way we do. But it is our responsibility to try not to jab folks on purpose!

When they get close, they will be pricked, as the consciences of the audience at Pentecost were in Acts 2. That is not a bad thing, and I do not apologize for it. We all need to be an influence for good, however uncomfortable it may be for our neighbors and coworkers.

Musk thistle flowerPaul warns us that if we are criticized it should be for being good, not for being like the world.

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:15 – 17, HCSB).

Prickly, but beautiful.

Picture credits:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Musk_Thistle_-_geograph.org.uk_-_893820.jpg (© paul dickson)