Thursday, June 2, 2016

THE GIFT OF THORNS

"We can complain that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."
-Abraham Lincoln

My knockout roses are blooming.
Delicate blush-pink roses surrounded by bright green leaves.

From a distance, I see beauty and color and I marvel at God’s creation.
But up close, when I reach in to touch them, I get pricked.
The beauty is surrounded by pain.
The roses are protected by thorns.


Thorns.
They weren’t part of God’s original design.
They were part of the curse.
They came into this world because of sin.

But God.
He can use anything.
He can redeem anything.

There is a man in the Bible named Paul who was hand picked by Jesus to take the gospel to non-Jews, to kings, and the people of Israel.  When Jesus called Paul, He knew the person Paul would be.  But He also knew the things that he would have to endure to become that person.

“I [Jesus] have much to show Paul, including how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.”
{Acts 9:16}

Paul was beaten with whips, rods and rocks.
He was shipwrecked three times and lived in constant danger.
He was arrested several times and spent many years in prison.

In the fourth letter that Paul wrote to the church he planted in Corinth, he addresses the relationship between suffering and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul talks about crying out to the Lord several different times and begging Him to remove, what he refers to as a ‘thorn in his flesh’, which signifies a sharp affliction or a sense of some acute form of suffering.  More often than not, suffering is the very thing God uses to reveal and display His glory.

All of Paul’s trials and afflictions changed him.
They forged him into a mighty tool that God used to spread the gospel.

Miles graduated from Kindergarten last week.  He and 76 other Kindergartners proudly filed in the auditorium and found their place on the stage.  I sat in a seat, like a ‘normal’ mom, and watched and waited for Miles to take his place.  Even though his teacher had to stand up there with him and one of his friends, I was excited to be able to sit back and watch my son.  To have the same view as all the other moms.

But it only lasted about seven minutes.

Miles spotted me in the crowd and wanted off the stage.  I love that he can always, ALWAYS find me in a crowd.  But I hate that after he does he can’t focus and gets so frustrated.  His teacher took him off the stage because he was really struggling.  Miles wanted me and his friend that was still on stage was upset and really needed his teacher.  So I got up and made my way back stage.

Miles was so excited to see me.
It really is sweet.
But I struggle.

I struggle being the mom Miles needs me to be and not getting to be the mom I want to be.  I don’t want to be jealous of the mom you get to be, but sometimes I am.

As I walked Miles back out on the stage and took my place beside him and the other Kindergartners, my view changed dramatically.  I didn’t get to take pictures and video of Miles.  I didn’t get to sit by Keith and experience this moment with him.  I was in a room full of people yet my view and my experience was completely different.  I got to be like them for a few brief minutes, and then I had to go back to being me.  Being different.

And it’s those moments that the words George Matheson penned in 1901 speak to the deep places of my soul and gives me perspective.
“There was given to me a thorn in the flesh.”  {2 Corinthians 12:7} 
“There was given to me” Can, then, the thorn be a gift from God?  I am in the habit of seeing God’s gifts in the abundance of the things which my life possesses, and I call those things the dangers of life which diminish the sum of its abundance.  But here there is a complete reversal of my thought; the abundance is the danger, and that which diminishes it is the gift. 
Paul has been exalted above measure; he has been standing on the heights of prosperity, and summering in the sunshine of a cloudless day.  The cloudlessness of the day is his greatest danger, and there is sent a mist over the sun.  His spiritual life has been fragrant with the breath of flowers.  The thorn is, for the time, God’s best gift to his soul; there is something protective in it.  It has no fragrance, it has no beauty, but it yields one of the sweetest uses of adversity – it reminds a human spirit that it is, after all, only human. 
My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn.  I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn.  I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. 
Thou, Divine Love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the glory of my gross, teach me the value of my thorn.  Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain.  Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.  Reveal to me that my strength was the product of that hour when I wrestled until the breaking of the day.  Then shall I know that my thorn was blessed by Thee, then shall I know that my cross was a gift from Thee, and I shall raise a monument to the hour of my sorrows, and the word which I shall write upon it will be these: “It was good for me to have been afflicted” (Psalm 1119:71).
We don’t like to suffer.
We don’t like pain.
Our humanness tells us to run from it.  To escape it.

But in the hands of a loving, purposeful God,
the thorns, the pain, they create something so beautiful.

When we walk through hard, our view can quickly be obstructed.  We will see the hard, the pain, and the thorns unless we get out of our seat and look at it from a different angle.  When we do, we see all the things they have produced in us and all the ways they have changed us.  Then we understand that the thorns, the cross, the hard, the pain, really are “God’s most precious gift to the soul.”

After the Roman soldiers stripped the clothes off of Jesus and place a bright red cape over his soldiers, they twisted some thorns into a crown and placed it on His head.  Their goal was to mock and ridicule Jesus.

Thorns.  They came into this world because of sin and were placed on the head God’s only Son who willingly became sin so that we might be “crowned with loving kindness and tender mercies, and have a crown of righteousness, life, and glory, laid up for us.”  [Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Matthew 27:29]

Ever feel like the thorns are too much for you to handle?
Ever feel like the cross you are told to carry is going to kill you?

That’s the point!  That’s the whole purpose of your cross.
Your cross is supposed to kill you.

We are called to deny so Jesus can shine.
We are called to die so Jesus can live.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must deny yourself,
take up your cross daily, and follow me."
{Luke 9:23}

God uses Miles everyday to remind me that I am not suppose to fit in.
I am not suppose to view the world like everyone else.
I am not suppose to be the mom I want to be.

I think I will always struggle.
I think I will always grieve.
But I pray I will always choose
to be the mom Miles needs me to be.

1 comment :

  1. Beautiful as always. Great reminder of the truth. It is a daily struggle though😔

    ReplyDelete