Think About Such Things

Transforming our destructive thoughts one seed at a time

Jul 26, 2022

Personal Development Growth Reflections
thistle seed bush

Photo by Gabriele Lässer

They are everywhere. Stuck on the garden gnome, the backyard furniture, in-between the patio steps, caught in the Emerald Cedar trees. A few had the unfortunate luck of getting stuck in the citronella candle wax before it hardened. Floating thistle seeds, thousands of them. We found out they’re coming from a field behind the houses across the street. On a mid-morning walk with my husband the other day, we saw them taking over the sky. A handful made their way into our garage before we closed it on our way out. We managed to catch a few as they flew by, but most of them were way above our head. It was snowing, in the middle of summer.

A neighbor we passed by on our walk told us to get ready for weeds to show up in our yard. It’s incredible how something this small and weightless can grow into something so invasive, so pernicious, something that eventually needs to be uprooted, sprayed with herbicide, destroyed. If left alone, they’ll take over, with no regard for any other nearby plants.

This made me wonder — are these seeds not unlike our destructive thoughts? Though they may appear seemingly harmless, almost unnoticeable, even a single one can be toxic if it takes root. As they grow in number, they cling together, both thistle seed and thoughts, attaching themselves to any surface. And once attached, even a strong wind can’t yank their claws away. They must be picked, gathered bunch by bunch, and disposed of. Or I guess you could wait for the next thunderstorm, or a mental breakdown.

The results of a 2020 study suggested that people on average have more than 6,000 thoughts per day. That’s a lot of seeds floating around, the good and the bad. How do we keep the toxic ones from banding together and infecting our mind, from stealing our peace? Yes we can meditate, exercise, apply positive psychology, change our self-talk, stop watching news, practice mantras. But ultimately, it helps to find the source — the field behind the houses. We may be able to snatch a few here and there that are close by, but we’ll never reach the ones way above our head.

We must ask ourselves what our field is made up of.

Where are the thistle seeds stemming from? Deep discontentment, trauma, lack of self-worth, fear of the unknown? Often it’s a combination of many factors. Maybe we’ve just lost hope that things can be better. Maybe we’ve lost the strength to gather the damaging seeds entirely, letting the weeds grow wild and take over, eventually taking our spirit captive.

Speaking of captive, there are a few bible verses that come to mind as I write about this:

Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

God calls us to think about all the concepts that are of Him, to steer our thinking in the direction of sacred things. A holy rumination, if you will. And if we can’t? Then we are to take all our venomous thoughts and place them at the feet of Jesus, as if to say, “here you go, please transform these into better ones.” God knew we would struggle with destructive thinking. He foresaw our mental battles and all the weeds that would grow from the seeds we would plant, whether knowingly or not. So he equipped us with spiritual resources that take the burdensome weight of this habit off of us. Because harmful thoughts are nothing if not encumbering. But we are called to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). And this, I’m afraid, is a daily practice.

Almost a week has passed and there are still a fair amount of the thistle seeds around the yard, having even flown into the screen door. As I collect them, barely feeling them in my fingertips, I am reminded that everything settles, eventually. And sometimes we must wait for the settling before we begin the process of examining what is before us, or within us. Among the weeds, undoubtedly, we will find fragments of something lovely, something pure, something praiseworthy.