Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In the Thorns

My daughter Mary and I were picking blackberries in our backyard garden. Those berries were big and juicy, delightful to both the eyes and the taste buds; but we suffered as we picked them because we couldn't reach them without being pricked by the thorns. As we left the garden with our bowls and tummies full of berries we also carried with us the marks of scratches on our arms and legs from those thorns; painful marks, but well worth the gift of blackberries.

In these dog days of summer my temper is as steamy as the weather; everything irritates me and I know the reason why: I lack love. I get so preoccupied with the thorns in my path that I fail to see the beauty of the berries growing through the instruments of pain, I fail to see the love of God that rises through the sorrows of life...and I fail to love Him in return. I lack gratitude and joy because I have become wrapped in self instead of in Him.

My husband has been reading the book by Fr. Larry Richard's, Be a Man, and I recently borrowed it from his dresser and read it myself, carefully of course, so that nobody would see the title and think me strange (which would be true, just not that strange.) It is an amazing and life changing book. The one theme that I took to heart upon reading the book is that the most important thing a man (or woman) can do to become holy is to love God by lovingly accepting His will in all things. In this regard I fail miserably.

After years of daily Mass attendance and the reception of Jesus into my very body through the Holy Eucharist, daily rosaries, hours of adoration, family prayer, spiritual direction and spiritual reading, hours given in service, sharing my faith on this blog...still...I fail to love God by accepting His will in all things. What I love is the consolations of God-the peace I feel during prayer, the joy I feel when giving of myself in service, the praise I receive from others. I love and easily accept these many gifts of God.

But when life gets hard, when I'm scratched by the thorns because I can't get my way, when doctor bills and car repair bills pile up, when I'm forgotten by others and I feel lonely, when my children misbehave, when the weather suffocates and I swelter without air conditioning, when my body is racked with aches and pains-do I still love God then? Do I accept these little sufferings as gifts from God and thank Him for it and continue to love Him through it? Sadly, the answer is often no. What I do is grumble and complain like the Israelites in the desert, I rail against God and the Church. I want my will-not God's will. I want the blackberries without the thorns.

Before I know it the time will come to turn the garden over for the winter, the bounty of fruits and vegetables will have been harvested, the blackberries will all have been picked and eaten, but the thorns will remain. In the dark of winter with barren blackberry canes rising through the snow, will I still love God then? Will I thank and praise and serve Him in the barren season without earthly rewards? I know I've far to go in the spiritual life. I pray His love will sustain me.

For more about life in the thorns you may enjoy these posts from the archives:

The Robin's Nest
Crown of Thorns


  1. Suffering is hard but it helps us grow so much. I think you love God very much - it seems to me that you are always thinking about Him regardless of whether you are happy or suffering. It shows in your writing.

    Randy loved the book Be a Man. I haven't read it myself but now that you've peaked my curiosity about it I think I will :)

  2. Anne, a good priest once told me never to be discouraged when I feel like I'm letting God down --because God doesn't look at our lives moment to moment, but rather sees everything at once. He sees not only the days when we have fallen, but also the times when we have tried so hard to love --and like any good Father, His eyes linger longest on those times when we really tried to please Him.

    I was just reading last night that Therese told one of her sisters that what God loved most in her (Therese) was her lttleness, and her desire that Jesus Himself carry her up the steep stairway of perfection, which she saw as impossible for her to climb herself. So, she took an attitude of trustful surrender.

    Your love for God is so evident in your beautiful writing and blog. I feel that if I met you, your would be radiant with love and joy.

    I haven't liked myself very much this week either. But, I am humbled by my stupid faults, and I feel safety in that. Praise God that each moment can be a new beginning for us!

    So, rejoice! You are His beautiful daughter, and He loves you so! : )