Thorns and Finding Significance

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Serene lake
Serene lake

by Linda Rex

I was sitting on my loveseat this morning admiring the beauty of my indoor forest, when one of the plants caught my eye. This particular plant was given to me last year and is called Crown of Thorns. Legend says a plant from its family was used to make the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head before his crucifixion.

Whether or not this is true, I can’t say. But it is a pretty plant, and interesting to look at. It grows in its little pot, feeding on air and water, and puts out new leaves that reach toward the sunlight. I’m sure it has no thought that perhaps many millennia ago its forefather was used in such a significant way. It simply goes about its business of glorifying God by being what it is, a thorny plant.

How unlike this simple, beautiful plant we are! We go about day by day, worrying about the weather, politics, the neighbors, the laundry, and give very little thought to the simplicity of just being who we are created to be—human beings made in the image of God to love and be loved by him. We make life so complicated!

We search for some kind of significance in this world. We try to be the best at something, to impress the boss, to be the most attractive woman at the party. We want to write the best-selling novel, win the Emmy, bring home the Best of Show ribbon from the fair. If we’re not trying to be the best, often we are trying equally hard to be invisible. In this case, our significance is in not-being, being nothing of value or importance.

Somehow along the way, we miss the realization that significance of any kind, even insignificance, is inherently dependent upon human expectations and values. There is a perceived standard that we seek to achieve so that we are good enough or better than most or someone worthy to be noticed. In every contest to determine who is the greatest, there will always be the one who is the worst.

Perhaps this is one reason Jesus was so emphatic that this is not the way to deal with issues of significance. For Jesus, real significance comes through service, sacrifice and a willingness to die for others. The things which we value don’t even count in the real scheme of things. We’d be so much better off if, like the plant, we just lived each moment being in relationship with God and others, trusting him to supply our daily needs.

It’s hard to understand the significance of a plant with lots of thorns. What good is it? Does it serve any worthwhile purpose? Even if it is used as a crown of thorns on the brow of a Savior, the plant’s significance is inherent within, not in how it is used. It is worthwhile because it is. And that’s enough.

And we are significant not just because we are but also because we are made in the image of the One who was, is and will be. We find our significance in our relationship with the One who made us and who provides us all we need for life and godliness. Our real significance is fully expressed as we live in love with him and with others he places in our lives, who share his life and love. This is what really matters and what will last when everything else we value is gone.

To be concerned about our significance is to be inwardly focused. God calls us to be upwardly and outwardly focused instead. We trust him to meet our needs, while we live joyfully and gratefully in relationship with him and others. We are valuable and worthwhile because we are and because we are his.

So we can approach life, with its weather, neighbors, politics and laundry, from a place of rest, of peaceful assurance that all will be well and is well because we are held in the arms of the God who made us and declares that we are his. He has demonstrated in Christ that we are important, significant and valued, not because of our performance or perfection, but because we are and we are his.

Thank you, Father, for valuing us, caring for us and providing for us. Thank you for the gift of your Son and your Holy Spirit, through whom you transform and grow us up into your likeness. May all our significance, value and worth come from you alone. Through Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

“And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” Matthew 27:29 NASB

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