Thorn in the Flesh

He asked God over and over to remove this thorn, but God said no. God said that grace and mercy had to be enough, that nothing awful or fantastic that Paul did would alter the hugeness of divine love. This love would and will have the last say. The last word will not be our bad thoughts and behavior, but mercy, love, and forgiveness. God suggested, Try to cooperate with that. Okay? Keep your stupid thorn; knock yourself out.

What was the catch? The catch was that Paul had to see the thorn as a gift. He had to want to be put in his place, had to be willing to give God thanks for this glaring new sense of humility, of smallness, the one thing anyone in his right mind tries to avoid. Conceit is intoxicating, addictive, the best feeling on earth some days, but Paul chose instead submission and servitude as the way to freedom from the bondage of self. Blessed are the meek.

We don’t know if Paul was ever healed of his affliction. I do know that being told I could keep my awfulness made holding on to it much less attractive.

— Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway, p. 133-134

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