Life consists of many layers of accumulated ideas and habits that make up what we call "us". We garner them as we go, but sometimes fail to correctly sort and filter them according to their worth. And that is why, I believe, we experience trials and tribulations....they make all those things pass through God's chastening where, hopefully, what needs to be discarded will be done away with..... a housecleaning of sorts.
It surprised me one day to see that I too had many such "layers" weighing me down. Past mistakes....wrong choices....missed opportunities. All of which never seemed to escape my attention.
Growing up in West Texas, we had a very troublesome weed that produced "cockleburs," little oval stickers that clung to our clothing as we walked through weeds or tall grasses. I'd rid myself of all I could find, yet sometimes one or two escaped my attention and I might carry them all day with me without realizing they were there. Only when I sat down or leaned a certain way did they make their presence painfully known. But you know something? If they never got removed, they would become a continual source of pain that would either cause infection or form a hard, callous place as it rubbed and pricked me over and over again. I might have de-sensitized myself to it after repeated encounters, yet it would still be there as a reminder every time I rubbed my hand over the hardness it generated.
That is the way we often deal with circumstances in our lives. Events come and go...tragedies plague us, trials frighten us, events beyond our control easily rip away the veneer we place over our weaknesses and vulnerabilities that pride, stubbornness, or simple neglect have caused us to ignore.
Looking closely, one can see that a cocklebur consists of loops and hooks, a unique feature that makes them able to cling with tenacity. We find these little nuisances in waste places, roadsides, lying upon low ground, abandoned land, in run-down pastures and waste areas and ditches. It is when we walk through such areas that we would pick them up on our clothing and shoelaces. Even rooting pigs can be poisoned by these little "porcupine eggs" (as some call them). The symptoms would be depression...unwillingness to move, hunched backs and weakness...even death.
Yet the very thing that makes cockleburs the nuisance they are, led to a marvelous invention called "Velcro"....which gives you and I the ability to make things stick together without much effort at all.
Jesus said to Paul on the road to Damascus, "It is hard for you to kick against the pricks." What did He mean by that statement? That meant when Paul held the coats of the very men stoning the martyr Stephen, he heard Stephen's dying words that asked God to forgive them. That pricked!...and a "cocklebur" attached itself to his mind and spirit. Kick against it, pull at it, try to ignore it....it still stuck. Nor would it go away until Jesus removed the guilt of that offending burr with His divine love and fastened Paul to Himself.
You and I walk in a world that is sometimes frightful, often disappointing. Events that happen to us can sometimes attach themselves to us as cockleburs...and though we may have searched them out, we may have a problem being healed of the torment they caused.
We cannot expect life to be totally free of such encounters, for they are all around us. But we can try to avoid the places where spiritual cockleburs are most likely to grow.
The rest? Jesus came for that purpose...to remove and set us free from them. And in that process, as we attach ourselves to Him, He removes all the offending burrs that keep us in pain and discomfort....healing what needs healing, devolving all the calluses caused by years of continual torment...layer by layer, until we one day we are free once more.
What joy to know such a friend!
MARY E. ADAMS