I once read that birds actually build thorns deep into their nests. Apparently, it’s a parenting issue. When Mama bird finds herself with a too-comfortable fledgling, reluctant to spread wings and fly, she says, “I’ll fix this” and begins removing downy layers, one by one, to expose those thorns. Baby bird says, “Hey–ow! That hurts! Ma! What’re you doing?!”
Suddenly, the nest is not so cozy. The idea of leaving seems more inviting.
Is it possible that God himself builds thorns into our nest? When we find ourselves in thorny circumstances, are we being prodded to leave because the nest has become too comfortable or, at least, too familiar? We refuse to budge, so God lovingly removes the cushioning, making it harder and harder to stay.
Maybe God just wants us to fly. Without exposure to those prickly barbs, though, we might never know the joy.
Over the years, when I’ve found myself in difficult situations, I’ve wondered, “Are these thorns? Is it time to go? Or do I still have things to learn here?” Very often, I knew the answer deep down. Admitting it…well, that often takes time…and more thorns.
In his excellent little book The Dip, Seth Godin reasons that times of conflict represent either a dip or a cul-de-sac. Every job, relationship, and circumstance has ups and downs. Sometimes, we’re just in a dip, and the right thing to do is to push through and grow from the adversity. But sometimes we’re in a cul-de-sac, doomed to endless driving in circles…unless we leave.
Dips. Thorns. Cul de Sacs. It takes time and a little cold, hard honesty for me to know when my struggle is a simple dip or a nasty thorn–poking me in such confounded ways that the idea of leaping off the edge sounds infinitely better than staying put. Seen in this light, I can let go of the struggle and come to a place of grace. No need to find someone to blame (though I admit I try). Truth is, the thorns were probably always there. They were just covered by God’s protective grace for a time. But he sometimes he removes that protection so that I will have no choice but to brave right up to the edge and take a flying leap.
And I suspect that looking back is not a good idea when in flight.