A Thorn In The Flesh To Make Me Humble!

Our second reading this weekend is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In this letter, St. Paul talks about “a thorn in the flesh.” While he doesn’t really say what it is, he tells a lot about the effect that this burden has on his life. St. Paul says that this thorn was given to him to keep him from becoming too elated, too proud or too arrogant. Paul asked the Lord to remove this painful thing from his life, but God willed or permitted it, for reasons that Paul likely discovered once he arrived at the gates of heaven.

I would like to confess that, like St Paul, I too, have a thorn in the flesh. Let me give you a little of the story. . .

My high school graduation picture shows a younger, and more handsome, Deacon Tim with visibly thinning hair. This was somewhat difficult for me to accept at age 18, but it was even more painful for my mother. She cajoled me and nudged me, until I went to a salon that specialized in men’s hair replacement; and so I got my first “hair system.” As you might imagine, anything that is man-made is never quite as good as the original that God created. Such is true with artificial hair. It covered my progressing baldness nicely, but it never truly looked like real human hair.

At 60 years old, I have been wearing an artificial hair system for most of 40 years. I have suffered the embarrassment of thinning hair on the piece and obvious bald spots. I have suffered the heat in the summer and the eventual bleaching by the sun that always changes the color. I have suffered itching and skin breakouts. In short, this attempt to cover my inherited baldness has been my thorn in the flesh.

I recently decided that it is time to say farewell to my hair system and be content with what the good Lord gave me. I announced to Father Steven my plans to abandon my artificial hair, and he suggested that I tell our parish family about my plan ahead of time, so people are not shocked when I make my first appearance as a mostly bald man.

Each of us has our own thorn. It might be an imperfection, such as a discomfort with the size of our body or some other physical attribute. It might be a persistent pattern of sin that we can’t quite overcome; it could be an addiction that has plagued us. These thorns can draw us deeper into our relationship with the Lord by making us more humble and more open to His grace in our lives.

No one seems to know what St. Paul’s particular thorn was. It may have been a speech impediment or a physical imperfection. There has been much speculation but no solid answers about what caused St. Paul so much pain. What we know for sure is that God uses all kinds of “thorns” to make us humble. I am well past the age at which I worry a lot about my physical appearance. I now sport the added pounds of later middle age, greying at the temples, and bags under the eyes. I know that our Lord sees past these seeming imperfections and sees me as His beloved child (see Psalm 139).

As for me, I will be appearing without my hair system in the weeks to come. I suspect it will be a bit awkward that first Sunday, but I trust you will accept me and love me as a bald deacon, just as you did when I was a deacon with hair. I am so grateful to each of you for your love and support of me and my family.

I have learned much in these nearly three years, and I know there is much more for me to learn. One of the most important lessons of this earthly life is that of walking in humility. I suspect that God will teach me much through this experience of accepting myself the way He made me.

We are all on a journey in this life that ultimately leads us back to the One who made us. One day all of our mortal “imperfections” will fade, as we stand before the Lord to receive the reward of our earthly life. Let’s pray for the courage to accept whatever “thorns” we must endure in our earthly life and for the grace to humbly accept whatever our loving God wills or sends into our lives.

In Christ who teaches us humility,
Deacon Tim

 

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