Home > Life Thoughts > Hey, Paul, I found your thorn

Hey, Paul, I found your thorn

I have to fess up.  I don’t really know what Paul’s thorn looked like but I know he suffered from one.  And – I bet he was called a thorn from time-to-time by those he addressed in his letters.  A friend told me last night that he thought that I liked being a thorn.  This followed a conversation over questions on church function and the biblical support for policies that churches set.

I have to agree with him that I can be a thorn but there is no perception of liking or disliking that distinction.  My parents could have told those that met me later in life that I would be a thorn because I was the inquisitive child who asked ‘what’ and ‘why’ all day long.  After a while, people tire of hearing questions – especially those that can’t be easily answered.  I wish I had a better external filter for my ‘thorniness’ but what people may not realize is that I live every moment with that thorn penetrating inwards.  I can’t escape my own desire to ask questions of myself.

I am my own thorn.

For example, during our discussion last evening, I made this statement: “I don’t believe we {the church} do a very good job of teaching holiness.”

All last night and this morning I have been asking myself questions about that statement.  And now I am wondering if the answer to that unspoken question is that we can’t teach holiness.  And I don’t mean holiness like women only wearing skirts and putting their hair up in buns in some legalistic version of holiness, I am speaking of living a life that reflects the AWE that is due God because of who He IS.  How do you teach that?

At the age of 20, my wife and I had the opportunity to go on a family trip to Florida.  It was a family trip with her side of the extended family – aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents.  One of the activities that had been planned for that trip was a day of snorkeling.  That was all well and good but at the time I didn’t know how to swim.  I knew how to splash around in a pool or wade out into waters to my chest but I always wanted to be somewhere that I could extend my feet down and get grounded if things started getting a little scary.  For the deeper waters, I had learned to trust the bouyancy of a ski vest but I had never surrendered my self to the full control of water.  I wasn’t necessarily afraid of water but I held a great respect for it and my lack of  skill around it.

So there we were bouncing across the water headed for a jetty where we could go snorkeling.  The jetty was the second location of the day, the first location had almost drowned me.  I had panicked trying to stand up after ‘swimming’ over a snake in 2 feet of water.  That was freaky business and now we were headed to another ‘fun-filled’ location where we could feed fish.  They assured me that while the water was deeper at this location that I could stay in an area that was only 6 ft deep.  Yeah, that was reassuring for a guy that almost drowned in 2 ft of water.  But I was 20, so I did what all rash, stupid 20 year olds do when people are watching.  I got in the water at the second location regardless of my trepidations.

And it was great.  The fish were beautiful and they would come up and take the peas right from our fingers.  It was like watching fireworks going off under water as they darted in out of their schools to investigate the different hands that were offered.

But.  You know there has to be a but to this story if its going to have any pertinence to the post.

Some point during our adventure, the instructor had handed me the bag of peas to pass out to the other snorkelers.  I tried to be a good guy and take peas to the different groups that were bobbing around the surface of the jetty.  So there I was skimming the surface, breathing through my tube when the bottom of the ocean dropped from about 6 feet below me to about 40 feet.  I was hit with two simultaneous emotions; fear and awe.  The water was so clear that I felt like I was going to fall to the bottom that looked like a mile away.  Nothing had changed in my physical world.  I was still floating on the surface of the water just as I had in 6 feet of water but a huge change had taken place in my perception.  The view of 40 ft of depth was a million times more wonderful than what I had experienced in 6 ft of water but I was literally shocked to my core with fear.

I did the only two things that I could think of; I threw the bag of peas because I no longer cared who wanted to feed the fish and I thrashed my way to the rocks that had created the jetty about 15 feet away.  The rocks were covered with barnacles but I didn’t care that they were cutting me as I tried to cling to them for safety.  I needed to feel grounded after being overwhelmed by the immensity of that moment.

When it comes to holiness, how do you teach something that impacts you with both the fear and awe that only God can provide?  Just like my water experience, I can tell you about it but unless  you experienced something similar you won’t understand what it was like to be exhilarated and in terror in the same moment.

Only God can provide that and when He does, He may have to place the person in a cleft of rock like He did Moses so that they can survive the experience.  Its that experience that will lead to life changes in response to the fear and awe of who God is.

So, I ask you, how do you teach that?

  1. April 20, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Great post T! Loved the tie in with the snorkeling. Have never been but would be willing to try it…once. How do you teach it? When you figure that out please let me know.

  2. April 21, 2009 at 1:00 am

    I know little so I seek wisdom. I haven’t listened to these, but I though they might be up the alley you seek my friend.


  3. April 21, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    What is wrong with being a thorn espically when one can learn or teach others by being a thorn. Great job! I am looking for polital related thorns in the goverment side of things to spread the word. Just DM nickwillhelpu on twitter and I will spread the truth.

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