The Thorn and The Rose
By: Kate Cannon

Poking, itching, irritating, jabbing, rough, sharp thorns. They hurt, and we know they are there. Even after careful removal, they still remind us of their presence. I have often wondered why thorns are given to the rose or any other plant, as I love flowers, especially roses and yet can not seem to understand how something so beautiful can hurt if not very carefully handled. In essence, the thorn is the plant’s most viable defense mechanism, designed to protect and preserve the plant from attacks, since the plant itself can not move away from any threat. Interestingly, then, thorns keep the flowers safe, thereby ensuring life continues, and perhaps helping one to see the flower with even more appreciation as well. Thorns do have a simple and effective purpose, yet they can cause one who is not threatening, but simply intends to enjoy the beauty of the flower, to feel pain. Perhaps we can hear the still, small voice of God through the thorn and the rose. 

Of course, Christ himself knew the pressure and stabbing of thorns upon his holy head, and He endured great pain in order that we may come to know him as the ultimate suffering servant. As Christians worldwide celebrated the death and resurrection of Christ this week, we have a reminder of his sacrifice for all humanity. We also have the vivid details and description of the pain he went through in order that we may know His grace, personally, which is the ultimate gift. This certainly leaves us in a place of pause… how does God intend in twenty-first century America to get in touch with us so that we can see him?

A beautiful woman and dear friend, talented and intelligent, sat with me one Sunday morning last spring in the baby nursing room at church. Her long, chestnut-brown hair flowed beautifully as she was holding her new son, whom she gently fed. I asked her how she was doing, and she began to explain to me that she was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She is in her mid-thirties, married, has three children, and runs a very successful photography business. I sat in utter amazement at how calm she was as she described this illness and the potential destruction that it could cause. I still think about the peace that surrounded her and which was in her that morning, the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding; peace, which would be the hallmark of her journey for all who know her. She began to detail for me the information she had been given by doctors, and it wasn’t long before I was feeling sick, and jabbed, and poked and pricked by those nasty thorns on my beautiful friend. She continued to describe a variety of possibilities, ranging from one surgery to several, chemical treatments, lifelong medication, the possibility of losing her voice, to even death. She was the first person I have known closely who would be faced with something this life-threatening, and the thought of losing her was unthinkable. 

I could not help but lament for her family, mostly, as she spoke, as I know how much she loves them and wants to care for them. O my Comforter, in sorrow, my heart is faint within me… I also thought of the photographs she takes, a most pure art form and gift that she uses to simply highlight the goodness and truth of who God is in our broken world. She photographs children, newborns primarily, in their first days of life. Why would He allow this to happen? I only knew to pray, fervently, for my friend. I spoke with God intimately and deeply about protecting her, healing her, and giving her peace through this process. The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.  I asked him many times to give her the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel that he would hand-select as they studied her particular case. I prayed for her husband to have strong resolve and patience as he stood beside her and helped in many ways to care for daily tasks as well as provide income and the steady hands which would guide this family. Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him. And, I prayed for her children to be understanding and obedient as they began a year of homeschooling with their mother as she began cancer treatments. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Months unfolded with more news of the treatments, and soon she was choosing which hospital to attend for this most-invasive surgery. If the surgeons cut too close when removing the thyroid and parathyroid, she could lose her ability to speak. It is then that I began to memorize the sound of her voice. In it all, she was strong, and again, at peace. I would listen to her speaking on the way to the next appointment, and she would sound at peace.  I would stop by to see her, and again, my friend was still in a place of peace.  She was not anxious or afraid, but she seemed to be aware of the thorns as they threatened to hurt her, but only to the end that it would allow her to trust God more each day. 

One surgery was scheduled to remove the thyroid and two of the parathyroid glands. There was more praying and thankfulness when she called after the surgery, because I heard her voice! I was so happy to actually hear her speaking! And as I was thinking, Lord, I give you thanks in all circumstances! she explained a few weeks later that they did not get all of the cancer out. So, there would be more medication, and waiting to heal so that they could continue. Then, another surgery was scheduled for her to have more removed, and continuously through it all she remained at peace, saying to me there is a reason. As I listened to her and watched the weeks and months unfold, I became more and more interested in knowing how God works out all things for the good of those who love Him. He continued to speak through this family and in their circumstances to me. He said, Trust me through it all, and I will show you who I am.  I Am the I Am.

She is healing now, and getting healthier every day. It has been almost a year. I can still see peace in her, and it is interesting how I can see in my friend’s beautiful face, the evidence of how she has been walking closely with God. She is another example of how Christ lives in us daily by the Holy Spirit, and she speaks now with a most special voice, a voice that has been preserved by the power of God. I know that she will continue to be on a journey to live in health, and yes, in peace. I am so truly thankful for the beauty from ashes in which God can take even thorns and use them to protect and preserve the life that is in us through Christ. He is alive and as relevant today as he was thousands of years ago. He is still working to bring each one of us back into a relationship with God, as he came to testify to the truth while he was on earth. What joy we have in his resurrection…the greatest gift of all.