Friday, July 15, 2016

The Thorn

May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,
       even as we put our hope in you. Psa 33:22

How fragile a flower! Emanating fragrance and exhibiting beauty, roses cut from her garden were a shade of pink all my senses were drawn towards. As she spoke of them, she used the word aggressive to describe their thorns. I watched, cringing inside as she took the flower in her hand to arrange it in the vase, thinking "oh, don't crush it”. She didn't. Her hands are strong but she knows just how much force to use to not change its shape. I was so happy to bring them home to sit on my own table.

For the next few days as I recounted the events and conversations of my time with her, I thought about the thorns. I outlined them with my fingers. They were sharp. The petals will fall soon enough on their own without any intruders, but they all come equipped with a fortress.

Plants neither move nor speak. Thorns serve them well. They are a defense system meant to ward off predators. Do I have thorns? Do I have predators? I love peace, but I honestly admit I spend much of my time searching for it. My opinions and choices do not always line up with others, thus sometimes causing irritation.

The Psalmist’s plea for God’s unfailing love is my plea also, for my thorns I fear have been aggressive, and I sense I have turned my anger on those sharp points and tried to match them far too often, and I am the one who so often bleeds.

I read of a thorn that the Apostle Paul was sent, a messenger of Satan. The word buffet, as used in the King James version, means to beat in contention; a blow with the fist. When he prayed for God to remove it the answer was “My grace is sufficient for thee, for power is perfected in weakness”. We are not told what the thorn was, perhaps a person, maybe something physical or emotional, but whatever it was, God said no. If you read further he goes on to say he boasts about his weaknesses.

When was the last time I boasted about my weaknesses? Rather than boasting I am more likely to curse. I notice there seems to be a distinction between thorns and weaknesses. Paul had weaknesses in his body, maybe from aging, or maybe from birth. The thorn he was given was from Satan. Whatever he had wasn't being removed.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. Psa 139:14. 

How should I respond to what God allows? I am to be focused on Christ and who I am in His eyes. I may have thorns, but I am a beautiful creation. The purpose of the thorn is to keep my attention and reliance on my creator. Instead of using them as swords for battle, rather I should use S-words, God's word, which is sharper than any two-edged sword,. Heb 4:12. It is one that can both cut and heal. It is a discerner of the intents of the heart. It is both sharp words and soft words…S-words.

In today's world we are fighting for our rights...racial, religious, moral, cultural, gender, children and elderly. Our resistance to peace only sharpens our thorns and turns them to swords. Everyone is left bleeding.

We are all seeking peace. We get further away with every conversation. “Christ said “Think not that I am come to bring peace; I came not to send peace, but a sword”. Mat 10:34. That tells me that the fight is important, but there is a way to fight. I don’t take my own sword in hand, but I let His sword bring about victory while I stand in truth of who I am.

I don't stand blind to my adversary and I don’t taunt in retaliation. I don't spend my time looking at the thorns on the roses. I know enough not to touch them and when I do then I am fiercely aware of the pain they can cause. My attention is drawn to the beauty of the flower.

My beauty and worth as a whole being, fashioned by the creator as one who can find glory and grace, is where my focus needs to be. God deals with me in gentleness, yet His gentleness may look different than what I expect. He knows what He allows me are opportunities to be strengthened. I have a free will and can move away or draw near, unlike the rose.

Scripture tells us Paul had been shipwrecked, beaten, thrown in prison, and now was being misunderstood in the church he built. Because he allowed his weaknesses to humble rather than humiliate, he was able to find a supernatural strength. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body”. 2 Cor. 4:8-10.

They put a crown of thorns on Jesus’s head. The weakness of a man displayed on the Son of God was just another way of Him relying on the grace of His Father. Surely He took our sins and weaknesses, but He looked and saw beyond them and glorified God.

 Three days after I received my roses, the petals fell. We live a short time and fade as the grass, James 1:9-11. Oh, may I not look down on the thorn that I have been given, but always bring praise to God in spite of it and gather strength from it.


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