By JENNIFER BURGIN
Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
A year after I moved into my first home, I discovered a small wild rose bush growing in a flower bed. It nestled perfectly along the fence. I figured the wind transplanted a seed or two from a neighbor's yard. The bush grew tall with gnarly thorns but no roses. Every time I mowed the lawn I carefully cut back the rose bush's deformed leaves and stems. One day I decided to dig up that ugly bush. I always give plants a fighting chance but this one was too much trouble. What's the use of keeping a plant that refuses to bloom?
Mother Nature soon performed a miracle. The sick-looking rose bush finally produced tiny little blooms. Within a couple of days those blooms transformed into beautiful red roses. The fragrance was exquisite, even attracting honey bees. In my excitement, I cut a few roses for a nice bouquet. I forgot all about those thorns until I felt a stinging on my arms. A large thorn scratched the tar out of my flesh, drawing a few drops of blood. I rushed back into the house, mumbling in pain, yet still happy with my prized roses.
Beauty always lies among the thorns....
A rose only blooms for a short time; however, the thorns stay around for the life of the plant. They snag, pick and prod. When I think of thorns of a rose, I think of the thorns of everyday life.
Thorns constantly poke us at different angles and in different directions. Thorns of hatred penetrate our gut causing us to get upset at people and situations we find appalling. Thorns of pride allow us to think we are "better" than others in terms of status, power, and wealth. Thorns of addiction draw us into a parallel life; a life consumed by drugs, alcohol or sex where fantasy becomes a way to mask the pain of reality. Thorns of disability, both physical and mental, cause us to doubt ourselves and our self-worth. We are overly-conscience of our weaknesses and maybe even think that people loathe us for our imperfections. It's as if the thorns dig deeper and deeper into our skin - a permanent reminder of our human defects.
In today's scripture reading from 2 Corinthians, Saint Paul speaks about possessing his own thorn in the flesh. Biblical scholars are uncertain about the specific "weakness" Paul refers to. Some think he had a problem with stuttering; others contribute the weakness to a problem with his sight or even a mental illness such as bipolar disorder. All we know is that Paul was tormented by this "thorn" given to him by an angel of Satan. He begged God to remove it. Yet, the Lord left Paul's weakness a part of his life. Instead of making it disappear, God provided sufficient grace to persevere. In fact, such perseverance in times of suffering only makes us stronger as we realize that God dwells within our hearts and minds. We lift up our weaknesses and Christ transforms them into a beautiful reminder of his deep love for us! As Saint Paul wrote, "I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me." Amen!
Sometimes we blame God for all of the thorns in our lives. We become so debilitated by our own weaknesses that we do not see the silver linings. The only way for us to grow and develop into holier people is to take the bad and transform it into something good and meaningful. God didn't create life to be all roses but challenging enough so we will rely on His mercy and grace.
The famous French philosopher Voltaire once wrote, “Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” To pass through life's thorns requires faith and trust in Christ. The Lord uses our weaknesses as an instrument forgrowth. We are much better Christians when we can weed through life's thorns, fairly unscathed and tightly bound to Christ!
“Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lies in sweetest bud.
All men make faults.”
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican. Please visit her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality