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?