“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. I personally think of it as Tasmanian cactus, and I’m certainly not alone. One Tasmanian bushwalking blogger recounted 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 by it when I have no other choice but to go through it. On the other hand, at times I also love this plant because it has saved me from serious injury and even death.
It is a very strong, sturdy scrub that anchors itself among the boulders. At times, such as in the Western Arthur 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 is 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 allows them in our lives 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 with others.
Though it hurts at the time, it is better for us to embrace God’s refining 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)).