Have you ever noticed that hearing and seeing something being performed can put it in a completely different perspective? I remember in college reading Hamlet. There was one section I just didn’t get. I read it and read it and it just wasn’t making any sense. Then I saw it performed and it all clicked! It wasn’t making sense because Hamlet was being sarcastic and mocking someone questioning him. Since I didn’t get that I was trying to find a more serious and literal delivery of the words on the page.
In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the “thorn” that he has been given. A thorn that he has been unable to defeat. There has been a lot of debate regarding this thorn and what it was. Just off the top of my head I remember hearing suggestions that it was some specific sin like lust, anger, or pride; or a specific sinful act related to one of those sins. Maybe. Paul traveled a lot and was constantly being persecuted. I’m sure loneliness by itself could provide enough moments of weakness. He was a former persecutor of Christians so violence and anger would not be at all foreign to him. But what if it was more basic?
While listening to Romans 7 via The Bible Experience I had one of those perspective changing clicks. Around verse 15 Paul starts talking all crazy: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out…For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me…”
Somehow hearing this performed I was able to connect it to my own journey. See, as crazy as he sounds I’m picking up what Paul’s laying down here. Welcome to my life. I know how I want to treat my family, I know how I want to respond to people I encounter, I know how I want my priorities to look when they’re written out in the actual order I live them out in…but how consistent am I? How does NOT.AT.ALL. strike you?
What if that was Paul’s thorn? What if he struggled to have his life line up with his beliefs? What if he struggled to have his behaviors match up with his understanding of how Jesus wanted him to live? He walked with Jesus. They shared time. His model to live up to would have been vivid…literally the living, breathing, walking, talking, sweating while walking the dusty roads Jesus. What if Paul struggled to follow that example?
I don’t know. I’m not a theologian or scholar. I’m going to keep exploring though…
How would it impact life and faith if Pauls “thorn” was his struggle to live life the way Christ intended?