My Thorn

6:30 AM Posted In Edit This 1 Comment »
And lest I should be exalted above measure
through the abundance of the revelations,
there was given to me a thorn in the flesh,
the messenger of Satan to buffet me,
lest I should be exalted about measure.

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice,
that it might be removed from me.

I've been thinking a lot about Paul's thorn in his flesh here recently.

When I was 13 years old, I was practicing for a dressage competition on a horse named Charmin, like the toilet paper. :) She was an albino Paint, solid white with only off white discolorations where her spots should have been, and ice blue eyes that always watched every move I made as if seeing where she could thwart my intentions.

She stood just over 16 hands tall, but was so huge and round that if you weren't limber, you couldn't hold your seat on her, even with the saddle. She was an absolutely beautiful jumper, and smooth and skilled in the dressage but she had a mean spirit, and needed a gentle but firm hand and an empathic rider. She wouldn't tolerate a hard hand or a stiff leg at all. We had our ups and downs getting to know each other, but after almost a year of riding her, she and I were poetry in motion- we were the favorites for the regional title.

I was supposed to be the only one exercising her. I worked for a boarding farm and earned my horse back time in hard labor scrubbing and feeding for the 50+ horses that lived there every day after school and all day Saturdays. She wasn't mine, but she'd been promised to me for a big regional competition that I had coming up.

One Saturday, I took her out on the trail to lead a ride with a couple of teenagers who boarded their horses at the farm. We were just playing around, but Charmin loved showing off. We jumped everything in sight, out ran the other horses every time I gave her head back to her. She was fearless. The other horses would spook at water, or bright colors, or the wind, but Charmin knew I would take care of her, and she didn't shy from anything.

We should have never shown off like that.
We made the other riders jealous, and she didn't even belong to me.

The next Monday, I came and did my chores, as usual. I called Charmin up for a ride and she wouldn't come. I went and got her, just wanting to run a few drills that I wasn't confident on, saddled her up, and headed for the ring.

I knew immediately that something was wrong with her, she wouldn't respond to any of my directions and snorted, tossing her head at the slightest touch of the reins. I was about to give up for the day and take her for a rub down, when one of the girls I had been riding with that weekend came and stood at the rails.

Charmin panicked. She took off at a full gallop and while I tried to get control back of her, she head straight towards a jump standard that had been left in the center of the ring. She side-stepped just as we should have made the jump, and she threw me (for the first time for her, and the first time in three years for any horse!). I landed full force with my shoulder into the wooden jump standard.

You always tend to your horse first, so I caught her and rode her back to the barn. As I was untacking her, I noticed she was shaking- like from a spook... although she NEVER spooked. When I took the bit from her mouth, I opened it and for the first time noticed scabs on the inside roof of her mouth that were just beginning to close.

I calmed her down and let her out to pasture and went to report that I'd hurt myself and call my mom. I found out that the girl who was watching us, who we had shown off for that weekend, had taken my gentle, but obstinate Charmin out for a grueling 5 hour cross country practice that morning, and had beat her, and torn her mouth open and bruised her sides with her spurs. Charmin would never be the same, and neither would I.

I had fractured my left collar bone. Luckily the fracture was a 'hair line' that wouldn't require a huge brace for six months, just wrapping and a sling, but the doctor told me when the x-rays came back that it would never fully heal... it was too crooked, too out of alignment to ever make a full recovery.

That didn't mean anything to a 13 year old girl who only heard "You can ride again in 3 months".

I am discovering how much it means to a grown woman though. It means that lifting my children will cause a shot of fire through my shoulder, folding clothes will be akin to torture, and it means that sitting at the computer desk typing will set my shoulder aching and throbbing.

It means the sustained activity of riding a horse will be almost impossible from the back-wrenching pain emanating from my shoulder.

It means I can never lift as much, carry as much, swim as long, or garden for as long.

I wonder what Paul's thorn was. Was it an old injury that he brushed off when he received it, only to have it follow him the rest of his life? Some people say that the thorn was in his side, others just his flesh. Mine isn't in my side or my flesh, but it is way down deep where no one can see it- I have no scars or bulges in my skin, I look healthy- but I'm not.

I spend the day cradling my left arm to my side, using it only when necessary, or when I work out so that the muscle stays strong. If I work with it too much, it aches for days and nights on end, sometimes to the point of stiffening my arm into uselessness.

I hate not being physically sound- my life requires so much of my body and strength that I feel incapable of giving. There are times that I get so depressed after folding a couple shirts that I fall into a 'pity party' and refuse to do anything.

But Paul didn't let his thorn hinder him. He worked through the pain and reached so many people with his testimony that he's revered as the great apostle. He prayed to be healed and God told him flat out, "No. You need the pain."

In this feel-good world we are told to avoid pain. Take drugs for it. Ignore the activities that cause pain. Ignore thoughts and emotions that trigger pain for
our minds. I don't think that's the right thinking. I think maybe we should embrace our thorns... face them head on and scream, "YOU WILL NOT DEFEAT ME!"

After all, our strength comes, not from our body, not from our mind, but from the Holy Spirit, who is perfect and infinite and strong enough to get us through anything... even a throbbing shoulder. He gave Paul the strength to change the world, and He can give me strength to get through the day. And when I open a drawer and see piles of neatly folded clothes and swing my children high in the air just to hear their ringing laughter, then I am pleased and I will praise God.

And He said unto me,
"My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities,
in reproaches, in necessities,
in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake:
For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Angela said...

Another great post! I am really encouraged by your eternal perspective on this. The story about Charmin being abused makes me sad. I grew up riding horses and have a special spot in my heart for them. :-)

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