“Just like every night has its dawn.” – Poison
I’ve spent the past few days thinking about and discussing “thorns.”
Also known as unwelcome events, thorns are both literal and figurative, and we all have them in our lives. There are little thorns that nag us and annoy us. And then there are big thorns that can cause us discomfort and lingering pain. We all react differently to them.
The subject of figurative thorns came up as a message in a series at my church, and then again at my weekly men’s study group. Why do these figurative thorns exist? Is it man’s fault? Does God create these thorns? What do we do with them?
“Was it something I said or something I did?”
What’s the purpose? Thorns are made to teach us, to shape us, to mold us into the type of person we were made to be. We start learning about these literal thorns when we’re little – we learn about pain from hot stoves and sharp objects (like actual thorns). We learn about patience when don’t get our way immediately. We learn about punishment as a result of our actions.
Thorns also protect. On a rose bush (of which we have three at my house), they continually remind me – don’t get too close! Wear your gloves! Prune me at your own risk! I also realize these thorns have a job to do – protecting a beautiful flower. There’s nothing like a rose bush to remind me that absolute beauty can arise anywhere. Something painful and unsightly can transform into something worthy and beautiful.
Unfortunately though, thorns also can drive wedges. They can put separation and division into relationships. They can prevent us from doing things we should be doing. These thorns are the ones that ultimately strengthen our resolve, but until then they tend to create distance between loved ones and friends and co-workers and even between us and our Creator. After all, it’s one thing to be taught a lesson in patience perhaps through being “stuck” in an unfulfilling job, but it’s a whole different ballgame when the thorn is a unexpected painful loss of a loved one or child.
“Like a knife that cuts you the wound heals, but the scar, that scar remains”
It was really interesting to see my men’s group, many of whom are very strong in their faith, grappling with their own current-day personal thorns and asking questions as to why. I consider many of these men veteran, battle-tested men with many years of thorns and scars discussing this topic. What this told me is that even those with personal relationships with God question things that we may never fully understand.
Even though we may not understand it, I think it’s perfectly fine to question why. That doesn’t make you any weaker of a person or lacking in faith. It’s a commonality that binds us and makes us all human. These questions transcend race and gender and political and sexual orientation. Even Jesus questioned his father with his dying breath when he said “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Ultimately thorns are what make us stronger if we allow them to. If we don’t or won’t try to derive some sort of positive gain from these thorns then they can destroy or at least derail us from our purpose. They can send us down dark paths and into dark places we were never meant to go. There is a choice though there may not seem like one at the time. We have to remember that it “rains on the just and unjust alike,” and we have to endure this pain or discomfort for something greater. We/I have to believe that. What’s the alternative?
We may not understand the purpose, and it’s awfully easy to feel abandoned and alone like you’re the only one who’s ever struggled with an issue. That’s a lie. Recognize your “thorn,” and go ahead and question why it’s happening, and then go seek out a good friend or council. You may never truly understand the why to a thorn. It can be frustrating, and that’s ok, but I think faith exists for this very issue. Faith that something good will come from it. Faith that the wound will heal or sting less as time wears on. Faith that your story (no matter how big or small) will matter to someone else someday.
“But now I hear you found somebody new, And that I never meant that much to you”
To many, today’s featured song by the band Poison, ironically, is considered by many the thorn in the glam metal scene of the late 80’s. Many see this particular song as the beginning of the downfall of the genre. Though I loved the song (and still do), some of those in the industry (even Poison’s own record label) felt the power ballad was too soft or not the right type of song as it featured a sad, cowboy-hat-wearing Brett Michaels playing his acoustic guitar. (Sidenote: I used to be able to play a majority of this song on my acoustic guitar many years ago. Lol).
The song was released in late 1988 and promptly went to the top of the charts the last two weeks and the first week of 1989. Shows what “they” know!
The glam metal era was at it’s peak by this time, but was beginning to show cracks in its lifespan as harder rocking groups like Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, alternative acts like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and rap started arriving on the scene and pushing bands like Poison to the side. But the boys from Pennsylvania had a great run from 1986 to 1990 charting 10 top 40 hits during that span making them one of the most successful bands of the late 80’s.
This song, apparently written by Poison frontman Brett Michaels after he called his girlfriend from the road on tour late one night and was devastated upon hearing an unfamiliar male voice in the background, is Poison’s only #1 hit. Reminding us all about relational thorns enjoy this classic today…
Thanks for reading.