thornsRoses and thorns are the beauty and the barbs. The two are inseparable like peanut butter and jelly and salt and pepper. I am a rose fan but not a thorn fan. Who is a thorn fan, really?

One of my long-held traditions is watching the Tournament of Roses Parade every New Year’s Day. Southern California’s Rose Parade features glorious rose-covered floats that glide along the runway of Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. I’ll never forget the New Year’s Day I drove with friends to catch the Rose Parade live and up close. I was living about an hour’s drive from Pasadena at the time, so we left about 4 a.m. and made it to a jammed spot along the parade route with all the thousands of other spectators.

And you know what? Those floats are about 10 times higher than they appear on TV. I never cease to be amazed that every inch of these spectacular floats is covered with “flowers or other natural material, such as leaves, seeds or bark.”

See what’s missing? Thorns. The roses didn’t get their beauty without thorns, but most of us never pause to consider that. The float builders cut away the prickly thorns before arranging the gorgeous roses in their place.

Thorns In Our Own Lives

In our own lives, thorns bluster everywhere—COVID-19, civil unrest, stagnant economy, political rancor, health downturns. These unpleasant realities poke and pain us, diverting our eyes from what is still good around us. 

This following quote by French critic Alphonse Karr always leaves me pondering: “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”

Thankful for thorns! Hmmm… I am certainly not a fan of thorns’ sharp spikes on my backyard rose bushes (how do they still poke through my thick leather gloves?!!), but thorns are part of keeping roses looking pretty. Botanists describe how beautiful, fragrant roses grow thorns to keep creatures from sniffing and tasting the attractive flowers.

Roses and thorns are the beauty and the barbs of Nature. Thorns add protection to the much-admired buds and petals. Roses give thorns an upgrade in appearance and a place to call home.

Protected From Harm

I wonder what thorns do in our lives. How do thorns protect us from harm? Maybe our thorns are warnings from our parents or traffic speed limits or even family and friends who speak the truth about our not-so-stellar behavior at times.thorns

Or, some thorns may poke us when we’ve neglected our nutrition and exercise or nudge us when we moved God to a far corner in the backyard, over by the overgrown rose bushes.

So as much as I’d like to grumble about roses having thorns, Mr. Karr’s perspective challenges me to find the patches of beauty in my own thorny circumstances. I face thorns, you face thorns. But a key is to keep enjoying life’s roses while respecting the thorns’ presence.

Life offers beauty sometimes right alongside the most painful, thorny situations. Here’s an example: I know of several people dealing with life-threatening illness/injury, but right in the intensity of the emotions, family and friends are rallying together and estranged relationships are mending. The beauty and barbs are bringing about the good and the pleasant looking.

How have you seen beauty and barbs bring about the good and pleasant looking in your life lately? I plan to ponder that as I’ll soon be out in the yard trimming back the thorny branches of my rose bushes. This spring, I’ll don my extra-thick leather gloves and an attitude of thankfulness.

We all face thorns. Let’s just be sure we notice the beauty of the roses more.