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“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Simply mentioning this word triggers a defense mechanism in most Tasmanian bushwalkers. Richea Scoparia is a common shrub, or should I say scrub, here in Tasmania that often grows in impenetrable masses in the mountains. Though its flowers are quite pretty, its leaves are quite sharp, and they prick straight through your clothing if you dare brush up against it. One Tasmanian bushwalker blogger described his bush-bash through the scoparia as a “Gore-Tex ripping extravaganza”.
I have a love-hate relationship with this plant. I hate being pricked bloody when I have no other choice but to bush-bash through it. However, I also love this plant because sometimes it saves me from serious injury and even death. How? It is a very strong, sturdy scrub that anchors itself among the boulders. At times, such as in the Western Arthurs Range, scoparia is the handhold or foothold that keeps me from plummeting 100m off a cliff to my death. Despite the fact that it cuts into me, it’s ultimately quite a trustworthy plant to grip onto, especially when falling off a cliff is the other option.
Like scoparia, we all have people in our lives we would rather avoid because they cut into us. However, God puts them there for the good purpose of refining our character in Christlikeness (Romans 8:29). Even as sparks fly in our personality conflicts, as we yield to the friction that is intended to round off our own sharp edges, we will emerge more patient, merciful and gracious in our character.
Though it hurts at the time, it is better for us to embrace God’s ways than it is to avoid them and, in so doing, embrace death (Hebrews 12:5-12).
(See also “Follow Me” (John the Baptist Artworks Series)).