Walking into my first Sexual Assault Survivors group, I didn't know what to expect. Upon the insistence of my therapist, I was entering a room filled with other women who had experienced a similar pain--one that had kept me isolated for years. As we sat nervously in a circle of chairs, the facilitator walked into the center of the circle holding a bouquet of single, red roses....one for each of us. As he handed a single red rose to each of us he said, "The beauty of a rose celebrates the beauty of life; for it persistently grows into a fragrant blossom in spite of the elements of weather, insects, and thorns. This rose celebrates your journey through the thorns."
This, my friends, was the first time I ever felt like a conqueror. Having grown up in a rage-filled, alcoholic home, and now finding myself in a SAS group, I most often felt like a victim. Could thorns actually lead me to victory?
Centuries before I sat silently in this circle of "sisters," the apostle Paul struggled with this same dilemma. Like Paul, I had petitioned God to remove my thorn. "Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me." (2 Corinthians 12:8) A quick study of the life of Paul, you soon discover that within short order, Paul stopped pleading for the thorn to be removed and began boasting about his suffering! "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (v. 9 )
Like the rose, when I learned to take my focus off the prick of the thorns, I could realize the beauty of the blossom. My life was no longer defined by it's thorny experiences, it could reflect the beauty of the rose...or in the words of Paul, "the power of Christ!" Still, without the thorns, we cannot fully appreciate the beauty of the bloom! And while my SAS group was not a Christian group, God used this place to touch my soul and teach me a valuable spiritual truth; answering today's question from FaithLifts--How does Christ use those thorns to remind you of his Grace and Love?
Just as growing a beautiful fragrant rose is not an easy task, neither is fighting one's way through the thorns of life. Becoming thankful for the thorns only happens after much self-reflection and prayer. Certainly, it would take more than one post to journal through that very worthy process. And the real beauty is this, when you have felt the joy of the journey, you can proclaim with Paul, "that is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (v. 10). There is power in weakness; there is eternal value in your suffering; when you give your thorns to God....he brings a spiritual value like no other.
When you are a victim to the falleness of this world, these are fighting words! This realization provides strength and courage to move forward. I am certain that without the thorns of my life I would not have grown in compassion, mercy, grace and love: the heart of our Lord. How do you personally use those thorns to minister to others? Interestingly enough, when taking a SHAPE analysis, these just happen to fall into my spiritual gifting! Anything I do at church or in my life, yes even the birth of this blog, is centered around these gifts. Is it possible that these life experiences helped develop my spiritual gifting? Hmm! Things that make you go......"GO GOD!"
So today it is my prayer that your life will be filled with bouquets of roses. May you know that in spite of the thorns, the beauty of this beautiful flower demonstrates the victory found in Jesus Christ.....the Rose of Sharon! (Solomon 2:1)