Why would anyone want roses? I mean, they’re beautiful but… THE THORNS! Why is a bouquet of roses the quintessential romantic gesture? What makes roses so precious? Why not daisies or dandelions; they’re everywhere; they don’t cost much or anything at all; and, they have no thorns!
I started working when I was ten years old. I would dust a lady’s house for cash, though I’m pretty sure she employed me for a couple of reasons: we could use the money and tell me about Jesus. I’m reasonably certain this was the case since she would drive down to pick me up, bring me to her home, make me cookies and milk, tell me about the Lord and then drive me home again. I loved her.
Soon after, I started babysitting and made a decent amount of money that way. But, I didn’t get my first official job until I was 14 years old. I worked at a veterinary office cleaning. I was very excited about my very first paycheck and decided to send it to my great Uncle Leonard and Aunt Rose. Along with the check I enclosed a picture I had drawn on a small piece of cardstock with a poem of my own creation inside.
“A rose has many thorns,
to pluck the flower, you must bear the thorns.
But, the rose is more beautiful
and more to be desired,
for the thorns which grow upon it.”
I was pretty sure my twelve-year-old-self understood what made roses so desirable – the struggle to get them. I still believe that. I tell my children all the time that anything worth having is worth working for. If it doesn’t cost you anything, you won’t appreciate it. So how do we square that with the gift of salvation? Salvation is an impossible rose. No amount of bloody fingers can bring us closer to the bloom. We are incapable of the sacrifice it took to grant us salvation. I wonder if that is why we stray. Could it be that the gift was so costly and given so freely that we cannot comprehend the value?
My mother used to tell me that only stupid people don’t learn from their mistakes. Smart people learn from them, and brilliant people learn from the mistakes of others. Could the same be true for sacrifice? Are we like spoiled children, given so much that we cannot appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice because we didn’t make it ourselves? I think that may be true.
My mother and I used to listen to a radio program every evening of the week. Each one was a dramatization of a person’s life who had come to the Lord. They were riveting tales of people who had found freedom from their lifestyles. Some had been abused; some were abusers. Others were gang members or gangsters, drug dealers or drug addicts. Some were thieves or con men; still, others were desperately poor, orphaned or alone. Each story would end in a moment of grace where they became “Unshackled” through their faith in Jesus Christ. Many of the people whose stories I heard dramatized at the kitchen table went on to become leaders in the ministry. It seemed that the deeper the pit of despair or degradation from which they had come, the loftier their ascent to faithfulness towards God. Perhaps it was, like Paul, because they understood the depth of their sins they appreciated the greatness of the gift of salvation given to them.
My mother would apologize to me on occasion for the things I had endured growing up, wishing that my life had been easier. My response was always the same. If my life had been all sunshine and roses, I wouldn’t feel joy the same way. I could appreciate the high notes much more because I’d heard so many low ones. It was true. Can you understand or comprehend the power of a symphony which rises and falls only one octave? Definitely not! When you hear the full range of three, four, or five octaves, you can’t help but feel your spirit soar within you when the high notes ring out against the backdrop of what has come before.
So, like faith, we should not lament the thorns in our lives but revel in them because they help us to appreciate all that God has done for us.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, 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.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 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.’