Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thorn in the Flesh

As a person of a rather controlling nature, I have issues when it comes to letting go. I tend to think that if I don’t do it, nobody would do it right…or at all. This attitude gets me in a lot of trouble and causes me a great amount of conflict, particularly at home. I also always feel overburdened. The worst part is that I have been known to loudly boast about my supposed ability to do it all.

While the rest of the world (meaning my immediate family) seems only capable to perform single tasks, I run around doing five things at a time…which fills me up with pride…and opportunities to rub it in, of course: “for real? You were sitting on that same couch on the exact same position when I left home three hours ago!” “I did the laundry, graded 75 papers, cooked dinner, did the dishes and you still haven’t been able to take the garbage out!” “Do you think you can put the milk back in the fridge? I’m scrubbing the bathtub and typing a paper up there…c’mon! Help me out!”

Yep, if you were around my house during boasting time, you’d think I’m no ordinary Wonder Woman.

The reality, however, is much different. I am a disaster! I’m riddled with stressful contradictions and rather manic behaviors that make me to do it all…but wrong. I’m a completely disorganized perfectionist. I’m a dirty clean-freak. I’m a punctual procrastinator. I’m a lazy hard worker. I’m an impatient tender hearted. I’m a grumpy happy person. I’m a distracted focused minded. I’m an introvert extrovert. I’m a princess laborer. But one of the most damaging of my contradictions is that I want to control everything around me…while I am completely out of control myself.

I am deeply flawed. I am weak. I crack under pressure. I panic at the first sign of something wrong. I fear changes in my plans. I quit when it gets too hard. I flounder when I don’t know where I am. At the end of the day, I’m not able to do it all. My house is a mess. My kids are not what I dreamed they would be. I’m not what I fantasized I would be either. There are a bunch of things I’d like to do that I can’t. No matter how much effort I put into it there are many things I would never be able to resolve, change, improve, get, or get rid of, make bigger, skinnier, darker, lighter, brighter, taller, shorter, smaller, better… because it is not up to me…it’s out of my hands.

But guess what? I think that’s kind of sort of what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 12 when he says:

So 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 perfected in weakness.” 
(2 Corinthians 12: 7-9)

There is nothing that cures a conceited soul and a swollen ego better than discovering that you have a thorn in the flesh that you can’t get out.

But what really is a thorn in the flesh? I think the fact that Paul never tells us means that it could be anything. The thorn, according to me is anything that you get and can’t hide which exposes your vulnerability and makes you humble. It could be that huge zit you get on the tip of your nose on prom night. It is that aspect of your life that reveals weakness and teaches you that you are not strong enough. It is that condition that shows you that you don’t have the power to change things on your own. It is the situation that makes you realize the only way you can survive or get through it is by sticking close to the One and Only source of strength. It is that thing that keeps you near God.

I cannot imagine what an insufferable …insert any expletive you’d like in here… I would be if I could really control and manipulate the outcome of all the things I worry about. If I were able to have everything just like so, all the “i’s” dotted and all the “t’s” crossed…I would not be able to stand myself! And the worst thing… I’d be miles away from my Heavenly Father. It is that thorn in my flesh (well, in my case, many thorns) which keeps me grounded on a level of reality where I can see how my weaknesses lead me to my strength.

I cannot do it all, so why try?

There, I said it! I feel liberated. If I leave the house and my family decides it’s more important for them to chill on the couch than to do their chores, I will survive!

Blessed be the struggle that shows us the path to Christ. Blessed be the Grace that is more than enough!

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