Fast forward to the summer between my Junior and Senior year of college. My roommate was going to Europe to hike across it with her fiance. I was staying in our house for the summer, taking a couple of summer courses. So she, naturally, asked me to take care of her African violets. The African violets that her fiance gave her when he proposed. Her precious African violets. I remember a feeling of panic that "I kill plants," even as I smiled and said of course. I was terrified that summer that I would kill the plants, but I didn't. They thrived. It should have been a lesson to my pre-twenty self that I didn't kill plants, but instead I thought it was a fluke.
For years I avoided house plants, knowing that I was the curse of death. But a friend gave me one when we lived in Germany, and it lived. In spite of being put in a box and transported across multiple country borders, it lived. Then we moved into this house three years ago. Our landlord left a beautiful orchid to welcome us into our new home. I, of course, expected to kill it. But I did not. It bloomed again...and again....and again. In fact, sometime this week it should burst into bloom for the fifth time since we moved. I have finally realised, I don't kill plants.
I don't know why my mother said that. Maybe I had, as a child, over watered or under watered something. Maybe it was a throw-aside comment that was a joke. I honestly cannot tell you. What I do know is that for years it dictated something I believed about myself. Something trivial, but something that was deep in my perception of who I was. And it was totally false.
As I watched the buds come on my orchid, I was thinking about how easy it is to set limitations that become part of who a person is. One of my children struggles with math. Saying math is not her thing actually sets an expectation that she approaches math with dread that she will not be able to do it. Back in college, when discussing language courses, my friend the Russian major made a joke that of course I didn't like languages, I didn't even do English well (making fun of my Texas country accent more than my use of language). I knew it was a joke. I knew that it was not true, after all I had been one of forty students hand-picked to help teach writing out of the school. But I still hear that "joke" when I'm writing and wonder if I have any right to be writing. It is easy to set limitations. I am determined that I will be more diligent in not setting limitations on what others believe they can do with any careless words that might come from my mouth. I don't want to have been the source of such self-criticism.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Father help me to use words that expand someone's horizons, not limit their perception. Help my words be healing and encouraging. And when I have set limits on a person's soul, send others to show a better way. Amen.