In my garden, I have the quote, “In the garden of life friends are the flowers”. I heard someone reply to that, “But watch out for the thorns, I hear it’s a common hazard for both friend and flower.”
Yes, roses have thorns. And so do I! If I’m going to be working in my rose garden, what do I need to do? Do I reach in unprotected and then curse the rose for hurting me? I could, but is it really the roses’ fault? What did I think would happen?! No, I would wear gloves and possibly even long sleeves with pants depending on how big the garden is and what I’m doing there. I also might carry some Band-Aids and Neosporin close by in case of an accidental scrape. The fact is part of the rose IS its THORN.
Since that first bite of forbidden fruit eaten in the Garden of Eden, we have dealt with thorns. It’s just part of it. Part of being in community with other human beings is dealing with their thorns. So, we can pretend they aren’t there, get scratched, curse the friend and never plant roses again. OR we can look at the situation for what it is – we ALL have thorns – and dress accordingly, prepared to apply God’s grace, even liberally when/where needed!
Think for a minute about the rose thorn. Why do thorns grow around this beautiful flower? Could it be a source of protection against predators? I bet if we thought about it, some of the “thorns” on OUR stem could trace back to protection mechanisms. Maybe we’ve been hurt, so to protect ourselves from that incident ever happening again, we’ve grown a thorn to keep that particular predator away. Thorns could also be as a result of what kind of home we grew up in. We’ve created certain boundary lines to protect our flower. Whatever the case, thorns aren’t all bad. They provide a valuable level of protection for a beautiful specimen of nature, and also remind us that we’re not in Heaven yet.
The thorn does, however demand respect when handling. I believe we do to. That’s why in Ephesians Paul encourages us to speak the TRUTH in LOVE to each other. The context of this exhortation is that we grow up. We stop being infants and blown about from here to there with every new season of “cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming”. (4:14) Paul pleads with the church to speak truth to one another and grow up into Christ as the Head of this body. “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (4:16) What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ! Do you think the early church body dealt with any thorns? You bet! We can’t avoid them. Instead, if we have any chance at looking appealing to non-believers, we must learn how to deal with them.
“In the garden of life, friends are the flowers” sounds like relationships (and gardening for that matter!) come easy. But just like gardening, friendships must be watered, tended to, pruned, fertilized and much more. I’m thankful we have a Perfect Gardner, Jesus Himself who says He will help us through the thorns and roses of life.