Life in the Briar Patch: Thoughts from the Thorn Bush

Do you ever feel consumed by the demands of navigating what you imagine should be simple, routine challenges?  When we registered our eldest child for a basketball program, we were shocked that practices were daily two-hour regimens with games twice a week in the evenings.   On top of that, enrollment in his regular choir class ended up requiring attendance at additional rehearsals because of his ranking in one of the higher-level vocal groups.   Of course, there were homework assignments and various projects, occasional group meetings, and volunteer work.   I wondered what had happened to the hobbies and activities I had enjoyed when I was in high school.  With five children, the schedule rapidly became overly cluttered, despite my determined efforts to streamline and simplify our daily routine.  I looked forward to every single school holiday, only to discover that our church’s youth group regarded the school holidays as opportunities for some day-long excursion.  Desperate for non-scheduled time with my kids, I played the role of the bad guy and regularly opted out of those events.

In the meantime, I had hoped that homeschooling three of our five would lessen the load in the evenings.  While that did, indeed, prove true, my daytime hours were consumed with books, lessons, and grading papers for the three at home, and our nights were cluttered with driving everyone everywhere and hoping to settle down to dinner together before all the athletic events (or even afterward).

Fairly organized, I somehow managed to cook meals for our family and the numerous additional young people who visited our table regularly.  The chaos of life was somehow simultaneously blissful and daunting.  When anyone asked how I spent my time, I answered, “I am an expert at socks and underwear.”  Occasionally I was known to practice conjugating Russian verbs aloud while completing menial tasks.  With the pressure of staying one step ahead of the tyrannically consuming schedule, I could barely breathe — yet I found it oddly exhilarating.   Somewhere along the way, I gave up worrying about who I was or what I was or whether I was good enough for anything or anybody.  Somehow it didn’t matter anymore.  What mattered was loving my husband and children and ensuring they had what they needed.   I learned to trust God in the tight places and let Him breathe for me.

When the youngest child left for college, I was truly sorrowful.  His absence left the house hollow and silent (they had all left by degrees, each one taking a piece of my heart, but the emptiness was palpable now).  Although I had planned to feel sorry for myself for a couple of months, God had other ideas.   Before I realized what was happening, all manner of activities and projects began to fill our schedule.   Over the course of the past few years, it seems everything we have agreed to do has ended up following the above-described “basketball schedule” expansion principle.  One task invariably led to another, which birthed several more projects.  Suddenly, the thorn bush was again alive and well and threatened to consume us.

As I asked the Lord about possibly resigning from some commitments, He instead spoke to my heart:  “I will teach you a different way to run.”   Just as He taught me to breathe in the tight places where I was afraid of being consumed several years ago, He can empower me to breathe in the throes of the pressures I currently face on a regular basis.   Irrespective of what phase of life I am navigating, the holy Seed of Life in me does not necessarily have to get choked by the thorns.   Instead, as I focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:1-3), I am reminded that the things that threaten to swallow me up can be used by God to remind me of His goodness and power.  As the Apostle Paul explains:  “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me……For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Even though the thorn bush at times threatens (or appears to threaten) to choke me or suffocate me, I know I can view the thorns, the sticking points in my life, as a reminder of my weaknesses.   I also understand that those weaknesses are the places Jesus loves to manifest His power and strength.  In that sense, I am grateful for the thorn bushes!  God, glorify Yourself in my weaknesses!

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