Many of the ‘things’ we will face come with the razor edges of a fallen and broken world. You can’t play poker with God’s mercy — if you want the sweet mercy then you must also swallow the bitter mercy.
–Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
I’ve been brushing up on my never-very-good Spanish — because why not? — and have just completed a unit on idioms which have had me laughing as I realized that literal translations almost never work for these. A few, however, do make sense. This one, for instance: “No hay rosa sin espinas.” Even if you don’t know any Spanish, you might figure it out. “No” is still “no;” “rosa” as you might expect is “rose;” and then, if you look, you can see the “spine” in “espinas” and guess at “thorns.” This is a familiar English proverb, too: “Every rose has its thorn,” or, more literally, “There is no rose without thorns.”
It resonates in the space I’ve been filling lately. A space in which I see happenings that break relationships, break bodies, break lives. A space in which sometimes the things that aren’t happening slice just as badly as the happenings.
Caught in the hurt of it, I turn to to complain, but then whispers a verse I memorized in a long ago Vacation Bible School: “This God, his way is perfect . . . ” (Psalm 18:10).
Perfect? Perfect. A dear friend directed me to Psalm 34 last week:
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”
“Taste,” the Psalmist says, taste this mercy, and see the goodness of your God. This is the bitter mercy which drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden, but gave them skins in place of their fig-leaf coverings. This is the bitter mercy which destroyed the whole world in a flood, but preserved Noah and his family in the ark. This is the bitter mercy which took Abraham to the mountain top and let him raise the knife above his own son, before providing the ram for the sacrifice. This is the bitter mercy which drew the Hebrews out of their 400-years home in Egypt into the wilderness to receive a law and a promise. This is the bitter mercy which sets an unreachable standard, writes a sentence of death, and then steps into our shoes and pays the price in full.
With our sinning, we have earned nothing but thorns, yet He allows us also the roses. Though we meet the razor edges of this fallen and broken world, we also meet the lovely One who binds our wounds. His way is perfect. In Him, we have no lack.
©2014 by Stacy Nott