"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Step 6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Step 7. Humbly asked him to do so.
We can certainly be ready for God to remove a defect of character, or a thorn from our side, but maybe God isn't ready to remove it yet. Maybe we need some more work on it, some more humility, some more revelations of how wrong we are or how much we need change. A few days ago God removed a thorn from my side by having me listen with a clear unobstructed mind. Not coincidentally, the day before I had a complete cave day of reading, scripture, prayer and football. (Okay maybe the football didn't help as much as the others).
And, more amazingly I was humble that day, looking at life like it would come to me and I would not try to orchestrate the movements of the day. I was like a gentle, humble and completely dumb sheep when God, through another person spoke to my heart. And what I heard set off a chain reaction of self-awareness that left me speechless. Then the next day, as if sending me a confirmation it was Him, I got another follow up wake up call.
You see (I am going to get vulnerable here to make a point) no one ever taught me how to be a husband and father, like many of you, there was no male role model present that guided me into the do's and dont's of a relationship. Of course TV was good to view, with its sitcoms about families and marriage, and there were friends with whole families that I could watch, but as I embarked on my journey into marriage, I failed, and I failed and I failed again. As one kind friend put it, what was the common denominator in those failure?, and of course it was me.
Then I came to the Lord and though my heart changed, and I became a much better person, and even after reading book after book, my relationship skills became a disaster. I could never totally figure out why, even with prayer and consultation from some of the best men I knew. It was certainly, as if, I had a thorn in my side that prevented me from seeing the truth. Meanwhile the ministries I became part of were thriving as long as I remained humble and persevered. So I thought, what's up Lord, why can't I see the light in this most important area?
Then I failed again, and this time I became as Step 6 states, "entirely ready to have God remove these defects.” But God's timing is not the same as ours, and it took almost 6 years to reach the point of removal (crossing my fingers here.)
You see, I had always looked at marriage or even any relationship with a female as an accessory to me. Maybe reading the story of God adding Eve to Adam skewed my thinking, or maybe all those years of being accused of being a MCP (if you don't know what that means please text or email me) made me think that a woman was there to be the supporting actress not the star. If you think that way, as I have, then you miss the completeness of what a woman is all about. Women could of course reverse this if they are also thinking this way, but let's focus on my defect of character, my thorn.
Some of you may have never experienced this as you have been taught what is right in a relationship, but again, I missed the boat on that. Now, that evening as I listened, I began to realize there is only a star in a relationship if you can help your mate to feel that way, as if you are making them the priority behind your love for the Lord. And, as he talks about, love them as your own bodies, as Christ loves the Church. And as he asks us to "shine like stars in the universe,” you can look across the table and tell whether you are making that significant person in your life feel like they are shining. Look at their demeanor.
We can take this even farther, because if we think we are being a servant, being humble, and treat others like they are our supporting cast, we are playing the wrong role as I have been in this particular area. Why can we get it right in so many other areas and fail in the most important one, in our own family?
I think I understand now, and God waited until I was ready to listen to remove that thorn. With His help I can heal and change my way of thinking. So now, I am sure I will become aware of another one, because that may be the only way He can keep me humble.
New Year, New Thorn, in some cases they can actually be removed after serving their intended purpose!
Happy New Year
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.