Today's second reading is one of my favorite epistle passages ... It presents a human side of St. Paul to which I can readily relate -- can't you? (From 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.)
"... because of the abundance of the revelations,a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."
No one knows exactly what the "thorn" was. Some suggest it had something to do with his eyesight (others say it was his wife, which could explain a lot of other things ...). As you read the Scriptural account of the life of St. Paul, you can't help but wonder if it had to do with former associates in the Sanhedrin who thought their favorite Pharisee had gone off the deep end. Nothing quite so humiliating as the open derision of people whose good opinion you once valued, or in whose "inner circle" you once belonged. (Not that I'm projecting here...)
To me, the phrase "angel of Satan" also conjures up images of depression . . . something to which many extraordinary moms (and "creative types") can relate. Or possibly another condition with which I have an intimate acquaintence. If you've ever been there, you know what I mean.
One morning you get up and coast in automatic pilot on four whole hours of sleep, Diet Coke in hand, kids dressed. In nearly color-coordinated outfits. (All articles in each ensemble coordinating with each other, not those of the sibling. That would be asking WAY too much.) And an hour later, dishes and a load of clothes in their respective washers, and dinner is in the crock.
Just as you head out the door for an hour or two at the park, a familiar flash of light strikes you right between the eyebrows. Then another, in one temple. Dang, another migraine.
In a way, those searing little thorns keep me grounded. They remind me when I'm taking on too much -- not sleeping enough, eating or exercising properly, or generally getting in over my head. With one of these, I have to depend on others to get me through -- my husband, my kids, occasionally even a friend who will take the kids for an hour so "Mommy Monster" doesn't come for a visit.
I used to think that "Real Christians" didn't let those kinds of things slow them down or ground them ... That putting others needs first, always, was the "right" thing to do. As a more grounded forty-something woman of faith, I now see the painful truth: In the long run, I'm not Superwoman, but someone who wrestles with her thorns and weaknesses. Whatever gifts that God has given me to share with others -- He put them in a somewhat fragile gift box.
And, like St. Paul, I trust He did it with my ultimate good in mind.
How about you? What's your thorn?