The one thing that I now remember from the last time my dear wife was pregnant is how difficult it was for her and me.
She’s been sick this pregnancy, the normal stuff. Throwing up, nausea, headaches. There’s been nothing out of the ordinary, as if it were ordinary. It reminds me of the passage from Genesis after our spokesmen fell into sin: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing.”
He didn’t say child birth. He didn’t say just up to the point of giving birth. He said “child bearing.”
That same curse came upon men, as well. It effects us. But it is amplified through work. Men worked the ground and livestock to survive. God cursed men according to their vocation, their primary way they identify as men. When you meet a man, it doesn’t take long to get to the question “what do you do for work.” Everything about a man is wrapped up in his ability to work, the vocation he has chosen and his ability to provide. The end result is the measure of a man based upon his wealth.
So, more about thorns. If you’ve read any of these meandering blogs I’ve written, you’ve uncovered I write about suffering and thorns. It’s because for some reason, I am a person who is more about work and profession than most men may be. It’s where I identify myself the most. I am driven to perform. I am constantly placing myself under duress if I do not exceed the expectation that I place on myself.
I wrap myself up in the thorns that come from work and I pull hard against the yoke to move it forward. I bring it up the load up the hill and take no mind to the personal toll that it places on me.
This is what I consider to be a leadership quality, but like all qualities in men, it becomes my idol. I begin to believe that I truly can be the difference in the world that I want to see – if I only work harder, push harder, and think more innovatively. It rests with me and my ability to achieve.
This is a fatal trait that makes bearing with my wife during child bearing that much more difficult. It makes it less about her struggles and more about my inability to bring the cart up the hill. Then self doubt, then actual struggles and difficulties in work, then rocks and thorns and more thistles.
THANK GOD for thorns. Without them I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from what is being termed performancism. The part of me that believes that I’ll find some sort of happiness in my ability to achieve. The belief that if I just do or get one more thing done, I’ll finally be the person that can show others the way to be successful. I’ll have reached the mountain top. I can guide the way.
But you know, this isn’t the way it is supposed to be. This isn’t the way that I was designed. And you know what, God knows that and before any curses to his men and women came out of his mouth, he cursed Satan and promised a Savior.
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)
This is exactly what we needed before we were even in a position to respond to him. Adam didn’t go to God after he sinned with his wife and say, “look, Lord, I know that I didn’t listen, but let’s figure this out together. How can I make it up to you. How can I fix this.” He did nothing like that, instead he blamed his wife. We men struggle with thorns the same way, we fault others just like our great, great grandfather Adam did.
But the answer has always been there. It’s been about Jesus and what he has done to rescue us from our thorns, our sins, our bad decisions, our failure and absence of true leadership.
He did it by taking in the poison of the snake himself and wrapping the thorns around his head. He went boldly to the cross and determined to rescue those with a thousand year track record of failure and sin. “Those who obey the law will live by it.” But we cannot. We can’t do it.
So thank God he burned our thorns up in the fire of grace. We’d be lost without it. I’d be lost without it.