I have a thorn in my flesh. Literally. A few months ago I stabbed myself in the left hand. It was not a cry for help. It was an accident.
I was trying to cut through some heavy strapping with a pair of sharp fabric scissors. The scissors slipped and I drove the tip into the meaty section between my left thumb and forefinger.
I removed the blade and saw a hole about the diameter of the blunt end of a chopstick. Blood poured out and I deduced I might need medical help.
Two hours and three stitches later, I was back in business, probably playing with matches.
About two weeks later I was quite annoyed that the stitches were still there and the flesh around them was tender and inflamed. I showed my daughter, the nurse.
“Why haven’t you had them removed?” Good question!
“I thought they would melt or dissolve or something.”
Back to the doc. Stitches removed. I thought.
Now, months later I am dealing with the constant annoyance of what feels like a thorn in the old wound site. I suspect there is a tiny piece of stitching wire embedded there. It sends a little stab of pain whenever I grip or grab something with my left hand.
I find myself picking at, scraping and worrying the surface of that buried thorn to no avail. It’s as firmly there as ever. I need professional help to have it extricated.
Segue to my pastor’s sermon last Sunday…still with me? He talked about the passage where Paul writes to the church in Corinth and says: I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
My pastor a.k.a. Gerry (my husband) was talking about the value of being weak. Yup, value. He said that most people regard weakness as a negative. As something to eradicate, to improve, to overcome. In God’s economy, maybe not?
Gerry also noted how surprising it was that even though Paul “pleaded” with God to remove his thorn, God said no. Paul was surely one of God’s favourite guys since he did so much to take the good news around the world but yet God refused to remove Paul’s thorn. Kinda strange?
So Gerry asked us to consider why. Why did God tell Paul, and the rest of us, that instead of removing our thorns (weaknesses), we must rely on His grace and His power? Then Gerry asked a question I had never before thought of.
He didn’t ask if we had a thorn, because he knows we all do…have weaknesses, that is. My biggie is crippling fear. It has shaped my life. It was the catalyst for my decade in spiritual dryness. What’s yours? Here are a few more of mine to get you thinking: Critical spirit? Vanity? Pride? Self-righteousness? Judgment? Competitiveness? Narcicism? Introversion?
He didn’t ask if we had asked God to remove our thorn because he knows we’ve all done that countless times. “God, give me courage!” was almost my mantra!
He didn’t even ask if we had accepted our thorn because he knows some of us have and some of us are constantly picking at it without much success.
He asked, “Have you embraced your thorn?”
“What? Embrace my…fear? I hate my fear! It limits me, humiliates me, locks me up, makes me a quitter, causes panic and anxiety.” I wrestled with Gerry’s question.
“Have you ever considered that the God who knit you together in your mother’s womb created you with a thorn, a weakness, on purpose? Is it possible that He gave you that weakness so that you would need Him, you would come to Him, you would rely on Him? How else do you make sense of Paul’s words: For when I am weak, then I am strong.?
I had never considered that. So how do I embrace my thorn?
This post is part of that process; once I press publish I will have done an important first step — admit it: tell others, quit trying to hide it, fake it, pretend it isn’t there while picking away at it in secret.
Next time I am afraid I will (try to) accept my fear (embrace my thorn) and immediately call out to God for grace and power: “I’m scared to death but what would You have me do/say/be in this moment?”
Then, I will (try to) act in courage, a God-given courage that I do not possess on my own, and trust Him for the outcome. I call that following God one yes at a time.
Come to think of it, I may just leave that stitch in my hand. How about you? Are you embracing your thorn or still picking at it? Scroll down to join the conversation with your comment.