Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
My oldest sister has a birthmark. But it’s not a small spot on her nose or her arm. Her birthmark consists of these large red splotches. It starts around her neck and goes down to her heels. For a long time, she was bothered by this birthmark. It made her feel insecure. It made her stand out.
Now, to me, her birthmark was simply a part of who she was. I couldn’t imagine her without it. It didn’t make her weird or ugly or deformed. It simply made her her.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I finally had words to explain to her how I viewed her birthmark. How I couldn’t separate the birthmark from her premature birth. See, when my mother was pregnant, she began having some health problems, so the doctor suggested to Mom that she have a C-section and take my sister early.
I have no doubt in my mind that God guided the doctor’s decision. I have no doubt that God saved my sister, no doubt that He helped her live. Not all preemies do. So to me, my sister’s birthmark was like God marked her to say, “I saved this one for something special. I have great plans for her.”
I call this a God-mark. It’s something physical that makes us stand out. I call it a God-mark because of my sister’s birthmark, but others know it as a thorn in the flesh.
We often feel insecure, vulnerable, and bitter about God-marks because they make us different. The world doesn’t respond well to what’s different. But God-marks also remind us that we aren’t in control; God is. And that’s why the world hates it. Our vulnerability reminds us of God’s victory. Our insecurity reminds us of God’s security. Our bitterness reminds us of God’s love.
Paul discussed his experience in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. He defined a thorn in the flesh as something that reminds you that you’re imperfect and reliant on God. In verse 8, he admitted that he prayed for this thorn to be removed but God didn’t. Instead, God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, KJV). When we realize how weak we truly are, we discover how strong we are in Christ. We discover our need for Him.
A God-mark may be different for each person. A birthmark. A limp. An amputated limb. A scar. Anything that sets us apart physically, that reminds us of our limitations. It doesn’t have to be on the outside. It could be something on the inside that limits us in some way.
My God-mark is a condition called endometriosis. For the longest, I thought what I experienced every month was normal. But then, one day, I saw a commercial for a drug trial, one of those commercials that asks if you have certain symptoms. I answered yes to almost every single one. It was then I realized maybe my pain wasn’t normal after all. I broke down and went to the doctor. I didn’t tell her about the commercial. I just told her what I’d been experiencing, and she told me it sounded like endometriosis. And then she told me what I didn’t want to hear: endometriosis can keep you from getting pregnant.
Now, I know God can do anything. I know the story of Sarah. Of Hannah. Of Elizabeth. I know that if God wants me to have a child, I will. But it’s the wondering that gets me. The realization that if it’s not in God’s will, I won’t. It’s the thought that one day, I’ll look a man in the eye and tell him that I may not be able to have a child. And that makes me feel vulnerable.
Every time I hear someone ask a married couple when they’ll have a baby, I cringe inside. Because one day, that’ll be me. While I’m single, no one asks when I’ll have a child. No one realizes I may not be able to unless I tell them. But once I’m married, it’ll be obvious. And when they ask me when I’ll have a child, I may not respond in a Christ-like manner. All my insecurity may come out in a nasty retort.
When I was on my way home from that doctor’s appointment, while I was indulging in a disgraceful pity party, God brought to my mind adoption. I thought, “Adoption’s great, but it’s not the same as looking at your child and seeing parts of you and the one you love.” And God reminded me that there are children out there who need loving homes and that I could give them one. Immediately, I saw in my mind’s eye a picture of me standing in church with a child between a husband and me.
And I knew He was right.
I may have no issues getting pregnant. But if it wasn’t for that doctor’s appointment, I would have never considered adoption. Never thought much about the foster system. But now that I have, I know I can never go back. I can’t help but think about the children I could reach, the souls hungry for love. And I can’t keep from thinking about how much God loves me, how He adopted me into His family.
That’s what I mean by a God-mark. Something that reminds us of God’s power and glory. Something that reminds us how much we need Him. Something that reminds us that He is in control. It’s sometimes hard to thank God for our infirmities, but it’s all a matter of perspective. As Paul says, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10, KJV).
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on justjenniferpurcell.com
Featured Image by Chandana Ban