Over the years, I have struggled to understand myself and value who I am versus who I once was. I've erred on the side of caution that just because my old friends knew me as the OCD/Plannerized being, that doesn’t mean my new friends have to see me in that old and stealthy dimmed light.
However, transforming into a funny girl full of smiles and laughs hasn’t always been rainbows and sunshine. Although this is my authentic character, that doesn’t mean the process has been easy. Loving myself, and learning how to love others correctly, for instance, is something I still struggle with daily.
Because as much as I would like to tell you that I wake up every morning and apply the advice I give to others, I honestly do not. That as much as I write about Jesus and how His love is so unlike anything we will ever experience in this temporary life, I still find myself longing to understand the magnitude of this conception.
And although I profess to others that this life is beautiful, and love is not a feeling or emotion, but a state of living in God’s will, I too still struggle to make it through periods of loneliness, drought, and feeling anything but loved.
However, while going to the Pumpkin Patch with my mom, God began to reveal to me the aspects of this love in an entirely new light. As I walked across the crisply fallen leaves of fall and weaved my way in and out of the vines that entangled my every step, the number of pumpkins that surrounded my feet surprised me.
Sure, there were probably 3,000 pumpkins in that field to be picked, but at least half of that number had already been selected and were sitting beside the vine they once grew. Looking down at the pumpkins that had already been picked, I found myself resilient to pick any like that and instead chose the ones freshly attached to their source of life. My mother, on the other hand, looked at the pumpkins already picked and said, “Nothing is wrong with them, so why don’t we pick a few of those?”
Allowing her words to sink in, I was appalled at the voices in my head that said, “Why would I do that,” when I had no justification. Other than not being as fun as searching for the “perfect” pumpkin, and getting to rip it off the vine itself, this got me thinking a whole lot about love, and a whole lot less about the pumpkins I was picking.
I think sometimes in life, we approach love in the same way that we approach these pumpkins. We search high and low for the “perfect” one and avoid those picked and placed over. Though a few are unsalvageable due to rotting, many are perfectly great pumpkins; we simply are not attracted to them, find them as our ideal “choice,” or want to have the fun in the chase and search of our selection instead. And don’t we tend to do the same thing with love?
We meet hundreds of people, probably even thousands every year, but this one isn’t the right height, this one is too weird, and this one is not “the one.”
But what if we stopped looking for what we thought we wanted, and allowed God and His Will for love in our lives to rein instead? What if we stopped comparing the “brand new” pumpkin, to the one that was already picked and neatly placed on the ground beside us?
Perhaps Jesus is trying to teach me something about love through something as strange as a girl aimlessly wandering through a pumpkin patch. To reveal to me that in life, there may be three types of people and the love that they offer:
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jakob Owens
1. The Picked-Over Pumpkin
Though there is nothing inherently wrong with this pumpkin, you don’t want to pick it off the ground, take it home to your loving front porch, and show it off to your friends. “Wow, I bet that was a big task to rip off the vine,” the voices would never ask.
You aren’t attracted to this pumpkin for a variety of reasons. Maybe you want to get enthralled in the chase and search for your own, perhaps you don’t like its shape or height, or maybe, there is nothing wrong with it, but your heart says “no.”
Some people that you meet in life will reflect this picked-over pumpkin. In fact, maybe you are the picked-over pumpkin. You’ve fallen off of your vine, but no one ever seems to be interested. Though there is nothing wrong with you (and most likely there isn’t), people pass by you.
And if we’re being honest, being the “picked over pumpkin” doesn’t feel too good, or do much for your self-esteem/worth. Too many times have I been the victim of this problem.
“Why do guys never like me?” I questioned, when my friends and family assured me that they do, I am just oblivious or unaware. “Why do I always want to look taller, more athletic, more ‘perfect?’” my mind ponders when I already know who I am and who God created me to be should be enough. “Why do I get picked over from the other girls whose lives are as real as the superstar models we see in magazines?” my heart sinks.
“Why does it scare you so much to be the picked-over pumpkin?” the Holy Spirit prompts me as I hear God finish with, “when that’s all that I’ve asked you to be?”
In all of their less than appealing initial encounters, these pumpkins offer the purest form of love.
They know what it's like to go without it; therefore, they strive all the more prominently to give it. They realize that they are imperfect, yet they long to live, and love, and grow anyways.
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2. The Rotting Pumpkin
Unlike the picked-over pumpkin, the rotting pumpkin can’t be salvaged or saved for anything. You can’t take him home to cook with, it is too late to carve its disintegrating flesh, and the smell alone is enough to make you never want another pumpkin [milkshake, pie, cookie, roll, latte] ever again in your life.
In life, these pumpkins are the people you should stay away from, and the type of love that they try to entice you. These are the guys and girls that pursue without really caring about you as an individual.
They are the ones who believe that most slept with people, one-night stands, porn, and any other means of fake satisfaction are what fully define love. The guys who act like they like a girl to get her to have sex with them, for instance, or the girls who dress like prostitutes to appear attractive because they love this deceptive affection so badly are both examples.
Yet what the world doesn’t show you about these types of pumpkins, and the love that they embody is how evil, ugly, and decaying they are on the inside. Like the picked-over pumpkin, they might even try to trick you into choosing them. Into lowering your standards, and giving them a chance, because “Hey, if you can get over the smell, it isn’t that bad of a bargain.”
But is that the type of love you want to engage in? The kind that appears perfect on the outside, but when you get to know it deeper, the putrid flesh of its core is enough to make you get sick?
Sure this love might be satisfying for temporary pleasure, but will it fulfill the need you feel in your heart? Will it replace the void that exists?
And if you are wondering, the answer is no. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, then you will always be looking to mere men to fill this need, and sadly, with this type of pumpkin, you will never be satisfied. If you do have a relationship with Jesus, though, this type of pumpkin still won’t ever satisfy. It will most likely leave you feeling less loved than you did, to begin with.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/sandsun
3. The New and “Perfect” Pumpkin
If I’m completely vulnerable with you, I would love to say that the “perfect” pumpkin was achievable in all facets of life. But if I were to tell you that, I would not only be lying to myself but you. As much as we would like to think that there is the “perfect” pumpkin and “perfect” love that exists somewhere in this world, it simply isn’t true.
Even in brand new pumpkins that we freshly plucked from the vine, they still had strange shapes, random chunks out of the side, color discoloration, and so forth. But you know what? They still work! They are still cute. They are still usable to paint, carve, decorate, and show off to our friends. They have just transformed into the picked-over pumpkin that I once wouldn’t give a second glance at.
The same thing then goes for their love. Because there is no “perfect” pumpkin, let alone “perfect” anything in this world that we live in, there certainly isn’t “perfect” love that we, as humans, can possess. Yes, Jesus Christ is perfect, and the love He embodies is perfect, but the love that we experience from others and long to crave after will never be perfect.
We are messy and fallen beings as a result of a messy and fallen world. But like the picked-over pumpkins, we still work. We still shine. We still love, it just looks different than what the world might expect.
I like to think that Jesus, in all of His perfection, love, and glory, often chose the picked-over pumpkin and even reflected that of one Himself. Though he never fell off the path that God had set for Him, He did represent love in a way that would seem unrecognizable, strange, and uncalled for to that of the world.
Like my mom, I am learning to choose the picked-over pumpkin, because when the right person comes along, they will cherish and love me (and you) with all they have. Just like Jesus, they will know where you’ve been and how you’ve fallen off along the way, but what matters most is the potential and life you bring to the future. And they will want that. He or she will want that. Because even in your picked over patch, they will pick you up, take you home, wash you off, and make you more glorious than you ever thought you could be.
It's time to love the picked-over pumpkins, friends.
Be the picked-over pumpkin. Give that type of love to yourself, but please don’t forget to lavish that now adored love upon other people.
Picking pumpkins from a pumpkin patch taught me about love: How to give it, how to receive it, how to know it, how to embody it, and how to pick it.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash
Originally published Wednesday, 22 September 2021.