Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Gift Of Thorns

OW! Get it out! ... ow, ow OW! It hurts!

"My grace is enough; It's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness .."

"Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and BEGAN APPRECIATING THE GIFT (caps mine). It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness."
(2 Cor 12:7 - The Message)

I am sure you have felt the cruel stab of a thorn and cried out with pain. Paul wrestled with his thorn, and as he wrestled, he pleaded with God to take it out.

I find myself thinking of Jacob and his wrestling experience (Gen 32:22-29). He wanted to be blessed and he wrestled all night, saying, "I will not let go until you bless me!" And then God (or the angel of God depending on how you read it) put his hip out of joint. Jacob limped for the rest of his life. He was a changed man. No longer did he strive, he knew God was his source and he leant on his staff and worshipped.

What have I learnt about wrestling and thorns? We don't like thorns. We don't like pain. We shy away from it and we plead with God to take it from us. We struggle, we wrestle, we fight. People, our thorns are GIFTS. Yes, you heard me right. They are gifts. They teach us that we need God. They reveal that we are crippled. They remind us that our strength is not enough. Ps 20:7 says, "some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God." The word trust (as in trust in God) comes from a hebrew word that is also translated as "remember". The word is "zakar" and it means, "call to mind". Basically the message is clear. Our thorns are gifts because they help us bring to mind who we should be leaning on. They help us bring to mind that we are not all powerful, strong and in control.

Jacob also learnt humility. After his wrestling, he went on to meet his brother. The meeting had the potential to be rather explosive. After all, Jacob had ripped his brother off big time. Yet we see Jacob meeting his brother in an attitude of humility and submissiveness.

My friend Frances used to raise and show pet lambs. One year, she had a lamb called Thunder. He was hilarious. Frances would pick him up in her arms and he would kick and bleat and struggle and then she would flip him over on his back. Suddenly he would just go limp - aaaahhh. Totally relaxed and chilled he would lie still, gazing adoringly up into her eyes.

My tumor, anaemia, meds and exhaustion bring me to my knees. I am strong. I am a fighter and these things have taken the fight out of me. They have brought me to the end of myself. And here is where the gift begins. I don't have the energy to fight. It's time for me to lay back in the arms of the one who loves me and speaks my name. And not just my name in passing, but my name - filled with meaning. Filled with love. Filled with all of who I am and ever will be. My name. Me. It's like the "being" idea. All of me, wrapped up in that one word, spoken from his lips. My job is to submit, to lay like Thunder the lamb, still in His arms, and be loved.

Isaiah 40:31 says, "but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." Lets break down a few key words here:

Wait - "Qavah" - to look for, lie in wait for, linger for, look eagerly for.

Renew - "Chalaph" - pass through, change, sprout again

Mount Up - "alah" - ascend, go up, meet, visit, spring up, grow, shoot forth

As we lie in his arms, we will be renewed, we will change and new life will spring forth. As Paul says, we need to learn to appreciate the gift of thorns. We end, and He begins.

One final thought, Psalm 103 says, "you crown me love and compassion". It is so true. But think about this, what crown did Jesus wear? If he wore a crown of thorns, surely we can accept the ONE that we are honored with?


Karen said...

You are so insightful and hit the mark. I'd never thought of the thorn being a gift, but it's so true that the thorn (s) we have draw us closer to God with need of him, changes us. How are you doing with the tumour, are you in a lot of pain? Is it difficult to Teach right now?
I was rooting through some old posts on butterflies for Claire and stumbled across this one on thorns (and a bit of butterfly thrown in)

sassiekiwi said...

ooh Karen

Thats a really good post on Jacob ... will take some more time in my QT and go over that.

How am I doing with the tumour? Well I don't have the headaches much now that I am on the meds. The main side effects of the meds that I have struggled with have been exhaustion and being "flat" - not my normal high energy self. Add being really anaemic to the med induced exhaustion and it was hard work. I found it was affecting my job performance too ... found that hard. Learning a bit of humility about saying that I am not coping and having to be honest about it ... whereas I don't normally say that!

I have been pumping 650mgs of iron into myself each day since Christmas. Stopped for a little break 2 weeks ago and my last blood work showed that I am back on the chart so it has come up and I do notice a difference although am still really low energy. The difficulty with sleeping so much is that my metabolism has slowed and I have gained about 7 pounds in the last 2 months. NOT happy - it took me a long time to get the 15 kilos off that I have kept off and I worked hard for it. However, will start again as I am starting to get some energy back.

We think the tumour is reducing because it was secreting hormones and they have been stable for quite a while but the doctor said we are looking at around 5 years if all goes well before I can come off meds. Normally people come off the meds and it grows back as there were still cells there that could not be seen. I have an MRI and a bunch of blood tests on the 30th of April. These are to see what has happened to the tumor in the last year. We expect it to be smaller and if it is, my dr said we can look at reducing my meds which could help with the side effects. Thanks for asking. you can pray for my MRI and blood tests that I am courageous - I am needle phobic and the MRI involves putting a drip in my hand and injecting dye and I really hate it and get upset (inside!). My last blood tests were not good and I had multiple jabs as they had difficulty getting good veins ... ugh.

Demara said...

Thank-you for my Sunday sermon! I learned that pain-like thorns-hurts but this "pain" is to remind us that God is in control of our lives.

His grace is sufficient for me...

Demara said...

I just finished reading what you wrote here, in comments.

I go in for surgery a week after you, and i am nervous about that, too! Not so much about the needles but for being cut open and perhaps to be cut inside. (video of the type of surgery I'm having here.)

Jesus protect Sarah as she goes through this process of leaning on YOU as her strength and energy. I pray Lord that you WOULD fill her with ALL that she needs. Amen

BunnyGirl said...

HI Sarah,

What a truth you write about, even if it is one that we struggle with (thorns being a gift) but you are so right - they do drive us back to God.

Praying that your MRI on 30th goes well and you don't have to be stuck with too many needles. I have sympathies. I'm needle-phobic too (3 months in hospital with injections every day will do that to you at 7yrs old).

Karen said...

Oh Sarah. It was end of Term 1 here today and the Teachers are very tired, and not only are you teaching you are battling with your health as well. The exhaustion level must be so hard. Can relate, I am needle phobic too (hence happy to go through the pains of natural childbirth twice rather than have any needles - I thin k there's a logic there). I want to transport you to some restful place, with gentle breezes, relaxing books and the sound of "Come away with me", make it easier for you. I know that God has a plan and you are going through some deep stuff - I just want to rescue you. I will be praying on 30th April for you MRI.

freetofly said...

I did not know of your health problem. Will certainly be praying, especially for the results on the 30th, and for His peace to be with you!

What you shared about the thorns, 'tis true! I love the story of like us, huh?!

Thanks for reminding us that whatever drives us to remember Him, is not all bad.


Jessica said...

Great thoughts and, as Karen said, very insightful!

I completely agree with the thorns- they are needed, and used to remind us to lean on God. Something I don't do nearly enough...

I'd love to do coffee!