It seems like a long time since we’ve had fresh flowers all over the house. Perhaps it’s because this past Fall and Winter–particularly in the aftermath of Katherine’s leg break–we felt more inclined to hibernate instead of celebrate. This Holy Week, of any week to represent the longing for new life all around us, seemed an appropriate time to bring some flowers back inside.
Of course, Trader Joe’s and a leftover centerpiece from an event did the trick just fine. Truly, it’s hard to be too overwhelmed with feelings of pain or sadness, with the knowledge of death, when you surround yourself with anything that represents the Creator’s expressions of beauty and life. But oh were it that easy to keep our heads above the waves when the storms come–just PUT A FLOWER ON IT! There are no such shortcuts, I’m afraid. Oh not to mention, some of these lovely little flowers have thorns.
I couldn’t help but remember the immortal words of the ’80s hair band Poison, “every rose has it’s thorn, just like every night has it’s dawn“. Not a bad comparison, I must say, but this prompted some further searching…
“But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.“ ~ Emily Bronte
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses“. ~ Abraham Lincoln
I feel a little classier now than I did after that first quote, thank you. Clearly, this notion of pain and beauty being flip sides of the same coin, thorns and roses co-existing is a fairly universal sentiment in this world. Even physiologically, our bodies pleasure and pain experiences are strangely similar. Yet why are we shocked to discover in this world that even things of great beauty or pleasure have been infiltrated with some measure of brokenness and pain? Or maybe even more confounding, that a deeper, truer experience of pleasure can be gained through experiencing the suffering first?
Our present life in Christ gives us a vibrant smell of the roses, but interestingly, it doesn’t spare us the prick of the thorn (not yet, that is). Even when we have a living hope that transcends this world and our circumstances, our heart doesn’t just harden up to keep out the hurt. Jesus himself wept over Jerusalem and the death of his friend and over the separation from the Father that he would face in his own death on the cross. Jesus experienced that emotional pain all the while knowing the real outcomes of all the stories.
“No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.“ ~ William Penn
As we enter into the darkest yet most spectacularly beautiful week of our faith, may we not try to gloss over the devastation of Christ’s experience, but more than that, may we ultimately see that pain through the lens of his undying love for us, just like we may rejoice in the roses on the thorn bush or find hope in a life that looks devoid of it. Redemption of a lost creation was the joy set before Christ, spurring him on to endure the most catastrophic pain, the pain of separation from the Father.
Since we know the end of the story, we can confidently endure, moreover embrace, the depth of suffering that is embodied in these coming days of Holy Week, as well as the rest of our own days. It is impossible to live in the joy of new life if we don’t first internalize just how far we’ve been taken away from death.
“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.“ ~ Hebrews 12:2-3