Cenchrus echinatus. This is the scientific name for the scourge otherwise known as a common sand spur. They flourish throughout North America, but if you have never seen one (or if you have never stepped on one), cenchrus echinatus looks like a tiny fossilized porcupine with menacing quills sticking out in all directions. Stepping on one barefoot produces the same reaction as stepping on a ball of needles.
They are sticky little savages, dropping to the ground late in the year, where they wait to inflict pain on passersby or to hitch a ride in one’s clothing. Tagging along home, then they land in the carpet to ambush a sleepy walker in the middle of the night.
When I take my two dogs for a walk, because of where we live, we have to deal with sand spurs daily. They are forever attaching themselves to my dogs’ feet. The dogs, curiously, react in completely different ways.
Toby, dog #1, refuses to stop when a spur lodges in his foot. “The walk must go on,” and his refusal to stop produces limping and whimpering, succeeding in only driving the spur deeper into his paw. When I force a stoppage to remove it, he growls, snarls, and nips at me – all while I attempt to stop his pain.
Mo, dog #2, without exception will stop, lift his afflicted paw in the air, and offer it to me for spur extraction. While he may whine a bit, it’s never at me, but at the fossilized porcupine in his foot. Quickly it is removed, and off we go as happy as ever.
Therein, you have the two ways to deal with your pain, your hurts, and the things you can do nothing about on your own: You can fight God (or others); resisting, biting, and barking when he draws close to help and heal you. Or you can willingly offer it all up without resistance. You know which one works out the best in the end.
But for the life of me, I don’t know why my dog won’t surrender his suffering. And for the life of me, I don’t know why we won’t either. Maybe it is pride, the refusal to show weakness. Maybe it is the unrelenting call of duty that says we must solider on. Maybe it is pure stubbornness.
The Apostle Paul learned, as should we all, that those inevitable things that cut, pierce, and hurt us – “thorns in the flesh” he called them – have a purpose. They break our resistance and cause us “to believe that only a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.”
Truly, it is a sign of craziness to keep pressing on when doing so becomes impossible; and it’s doubly insane to do so when there is One who can help deliver us from our sufferings. There’s no shame in taking help when help is what we need. It’s the only way to get back to walking – and to get back to living.