I fell asleep at my desk

asleep-1296292_960_720I fell asleep at my desk.

Not for long.  Just a few seconds.

It was that wasteland time between 1 and 2pm, after a big lunch, after the caffeine had worn off.

My eyelids started to flutter, and then close, and then…maybe a minute had passed.  I just drifted off, into one of those lazy flights of escape.

Sounds like a guy who needs a nap, right? Well, there’s a problem with that.

I gave up naps for Lent.

It’s been hard!  No naps, except on Sundays.  On Sundays I get to sleep my guts out.  (Not till after church).

The rest of the week, I’m challenged to stay awake during the day.

I’ve always grabbed little naps here or there.  20 minutes before a meeting, 30 minutes before dinner, that kind of thing.

But lately, it seemed like my naps were getting longer.  I was using them as an escape from the busy real world. Instead of giving me energy, they seemed to be sapping it.

I decided that maybe I could give that time to God, instead.

Remember Jesus, in the Garden?

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  –Matthew 26:40-41

I want to stand watch with Jesus.  I want my spirit to be willing.

But, alas, my flesh has proven to be weak on a couple occasions this Lent.  Sitting in my living room, I’ve found the need to close my eyes, just for a couple minutes.  And here, at my desk, the day’s work just seems too much to handle.

I take my eye off the prize, and then Zzzzzzzzzz.

As vigilant as you and I long to be, we may be destined to fall asleep on the job, to lose our focus, to give into our weaknesses.  It’s bound to happen every once in a while.

But if Lent accomplishes anything, it reminds us that being a living sacrifice for God does not mean achieving perfection.

It means being willing to take up the cross, even if we’ll fall.

It means following faithfully the path of Christ, even if we’ll stray.

It means living with our eyes wide open…

Well, at least most of the time.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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THORN

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. –2 Corinthians  12:7b

The debate has raged for centuries.   What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?

In the passage above, Paul talks about an ailment of some sort, presented by Satan himself, that kept Paul from ever being too elated.

Was it a physical ailment?  Some have said Paul had a stutter, or poor eyesight, or epilepsy.  I even read someone who suggesting he had terrible B.O.!  Or was it more of a mental issue?   Could he have been homosexual? (which is also a physical “condition”)  Or depressed?  Or jumpy?  Or perhaps his thorn was a spiritual one:  An evil spirit sent by Satan to torment him?

2000 years later, and there is still no consensus.   No one has figured out what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was.

Until now.

Last week, I was searching around on Ebay, and I found it.   An ancient artifact wrapped up and stored in an ornate wooden box, complete with full documentation.  I bought it for $30 from a lady in Pittsburgh.  I have no idea how she ended up with it.

It just came in the mail, and here’s what I discovered:  Paul’s “thorn?”  It was a thorn.

That’s right.   He wasn’t being figurative at all.  He was being literal!  Paul’s big issue was this ugly red thorn that had been stuck in his side for years and years.   Three times he prayed for God to remove it from him, but, like a stubborn sliver, the darn thing wouldn’t budge.

Eventually, he just learned to live with it.

So that’s that.   Sorry if it’s a let down.  But now that that question is settled, can we move on to the real point Paul is trying to make?

Somehow, God was able to take Paul’s thorn, and put it to use.   Incorporate it, even, into the Big Picture.   Paul makes it clear that, painful as this thorn is, he has learned that it helps him to stay on track, focussed on the Kingdom.  Miraculously, Paul has taken his “issue” and used it in service to God.  Amazing!

I don’t know what your “issues” are–maybe some of the same ones people have suspected Paul as having.   Some of those thorns are short term, and others will be with you your whole life long.  You may have years of wresting ahead of you, just like Paul.  That can seem daunting!

Okay, okay, I confess.   I didn’t really pick up Paul’s thorn on Ebay.  I have no clue what his problem was, but did you notice?  Once the mystery of Paul’s ailment was set out of the way, we were able to take a good look at the REAL mystery:   That God can use even us, thorns and all.

Life, it turns out, is thorny.   But the nature of the thorn isn’t what’s important.   What matters is that God can cause new, fragrant life to bloom, even in the most difficult of situations.

God reminds us to take heart, and to have faith, and remember:

Every Thorn Has Its Rose.

Have a great week,

Mitch

images by jpmatth bobosh_t