Refining Life, on Purpose

Life’s Thorns: Dude! What Happened to Your Lip?

Thorn's in our Flesh Remind us of Our Need for Christ

Once in a while, there comes a true story so filled with irony that you have to tell it, but fear nobody will believe you. To give you proper context, before I tell you what happened to my lip, I need to provide some background.

My father had a beard. Not just any beard, but a big ole ZZ Top type of beard. The first time in my life that I saw him beardless was in my mid-twenties at a time when he was nearing the end of his as he battled throat cancer. As a kid, I could not wait until I too would have a “ZZ Top beard” that would be coveted by others.

Note: This post from October 2014 has been getting found and read a little more often than normal as of late. In light of that, I am reposting it today. Hope you enjoy. Feel free to comment and share.

But I can’t grow a beard.

Seriously. Even at the age of thirty-something-almost-forty, I shave once a week. If I go more than that, my neck hair comes in pretty strong, but my chin and cheeks are nothing more than random patches of peach fuzz.

The other night, as I was getting ready for the banquet where I would be recognized in front of hundreds of my professional peers, I chose to shave. Didn’t really need to do it, but decided it would be respectful and make for better pictures if I didn’t have the four-day growth on my face.

As I am shaving, my daughter was watching. As I did so, she asks, “What if you cut your lip?”

“That would really suck,” I said.

A few minutes later, as I am doing the last few touch-ups, I CUT MY LIP!

And it sucked.

It bled. And bled… and bled. I tried toilet paper, mouth wash, chap stick, hair gel, even deodorant. Nothing stopped the bloodshed. NOTHING. If only I had packed my styptic pencil! And here I was, and hour until the banquet. And photos. And a spotlight.

I went to the banquet with a pocket full of tissues and a belly full of butterflies. It was heavy enough that I couldn’t let it dry up, but light enough that it wouldn’t be noticeable to most onlookers. Through dinner, I continued blotting my lip to make sure I kept the blood from dripping onto my shirt.

Thorn's in our Flesh Remind us of Our Need for Christ

Thorns in our Flesh Remind us of Our Need for Christ. Photo Credit: pfarrell95 via Compfight cc

Following dinner and a brief presentation, there was an intermission just before the individual awards portion would begin. My lip was still bleeding. Just as intermission was about to conclude, a gentleman walks over and introduces himself, says he saw my picture in the program and wanted to congratulate me. I thanked him and we chatted for a few minutes. I blotted my lip. His eyes got big and he exclaimed,

“Dude! What happened to your lip?”

I told him the whole stupid story. He shrugged and said “Ah well, it’s something to remind you that you’re human while you’re up there.”

Things went well and there was no bloodshed as I said a few words after being honored. For the most part, the bleeding stopped after I sat down. But the memory will exist in my mind forever.

What does a cut lip have to do with thorns?

It reminds me of the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians Paul talks about a “thorn” in his “flesh” that is served as a reminder of his weaknesses.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:7-10

In this portion of the book, Paul spend time with what he called “boasting” about his self. He uses the term somewhat tongue-in-cheek as a way of calling attention to the fact that the false prophets of the area were boasting of their exploits.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to remember they are human in their weaknesses and that they are not complete without Christ. At the same time, he was refuting the false prophets’ claims that he was not a genuine man of God since he was so weak.

Paul instead teaches that we are to celebrate and rejoice in our weaknesses. Why? Because it shows our dependence on God.

Just as Paul had a thorn, I had a temporary thorn in my flesh. Was it a messenger of Satan? Probably not. But it did in fact keep me mindful of my humanity even as I was honored by others.

About Chad Gramling

Chad Gramling makes his home in Indiana with his wife and three daughters. He's the founder and primary blogger at 1Glories, a vision cast onto his heart and detailed in Listen Up Kids: Foolish Dreams, Syncing with God & Running to Win.