I live in a house with a husband who has a thorn the size of Texas protruding from his side and God is choosing to let the thorn only pierce him deep enough so as to allow the thorn to pierce me too.
The thorn making us bleed out is making us cry.
The grace covering the thorn that is making us both bleed out is making us weep.
And I long to tell you that I am thankful for the thorn, but it has plunged us so deeply that the blood will not stop pouring long enough for us to see the severity of the wound. I’m also no good at lying.
I am angry about the thorn. I am overcome with bitterness about the thorn. I am fearful about what the thorn will cost us. I am wondering if we’re being punished or being benched or being put out to pasture.
But mostly I am grieved that the thorn has forced us into a season of life where our future is uncertain and where our fists are always raised to the heavens in a thousand questions: Haven’t we given everything for the sake of the Gospel in a hard place? Haven’t we denied ourselves in every way humanly possible? Haven’t we been obedient and faithful and relentless to do the work set before us?
The questions being hurled at the heavens never cease to roll off our tongues and rattle our cages and fog our brains and bring us to our knees.In a five month span of time, we have become crippled beggars at the feet of Jesus crying out for the one crumb that will assure us that this crippling is for our good and His glory, unsure if Jesus will give us even that.
It is hard to beg for one bite of sustenance with a gaping wound in one’s side. It’s hard to keep crying out for rescue when deafening silence is our reward. And it’s hard to stay curled up at the feet of Jesus when everything in us wants to limp away and nurse our wounds alone.
But we have not the energy to limp away, so we surrender our make-believe right to anything and rest on the floor until Jesus lifts our heads.
As I consider our current state of life, I’m prone to attach a pat, finite answer to the deep, mysterious question of Why?
Why would God allow my husband’s body to simply stop working long enough to put him in the hospital for four days and then in a rehab center for another thirty days? Why would God choose to allow his brain to be broken to the degree that he needs a steady stream of meds to keep functioning? Why would God enforce a full-stop to our involvement in the things we were doing in His name?
I sincerely have no idea. The vastness before us feels pointless. The unknowns feel daunting which in turn, causes my mind to wander into places it has no business wandering.
And friends, my wandering mind quickly turns my eyes inward towards a place of self pity, self righteousness and self piety, rather than outward, towards Jesus, who out of His great love for us, has seen fit to give us an extended season of Sabbath rest.
Because that is what this season is.
The thorn piercing our side is not a sign of disobedience or displeasure or curse.
The thorn is simply the means by which Jesus is thrusting us into a season of rest because Jesus longs to breathe new life into us.
No matter how our flesh wants to turn the tables on the truth, the fact of the matter is that Jesus has gently commanded us to lie down and rest, with no set time to get back up. I guess you could say we’ve been lovingly relieved of the duties we were unwilling to hand off.
For the first time in years, we have wide open space to explore every line scrawled in every box on our calendar and erase some of those lines. Our gaping wounds make for easy no’s to things we’d normally say yes to. Other’s expectations of us have been lowered. Projects have been put on permanent hiatus, no speaking engagements hang over our heads and the proverbial hamster wheel of neighborhood ministry is broken and the part cannot be repaired anytime soon.
Every day of this season of Sabbath opens with the opportunity to take coffee on the back porch to read and journal my thoughts, searching for that scarlet thread of redemption written throughout the pages of doubt and fear and grief. I know that all of rest is found in Jesus and that Jesus is the author of the redemption we are crying out to receive. So in this place of rest, I keep writing down the revelation of the redemption happening in my soul. I sit until I can feel the depths of the wound in my side and then I write. Then I sit some more and I feel around again until the dull ache of the wound becomes the kind of throbbing pain that births new life in my soul.
All of new life begins in the dark, and in this season of rest where pain is an ever-present companion, my soul is ripe for rebirth.
This is the gift of the thorn.
That Jesus would lovingly allow a thorn to pierce my side that He might lead me into the kind of rest where only crippled beggars laying at the feet of Jesus find the bread they never knew they were after.