Right before I graduated from college, a classmate wrote an article for our school paper. He called it “Roses and Thorns” and listed some of the best and worst parts of his four years at our university. Roses were the things he’d loved, the experiences he’d treasure, the friends he’d miss. Thorns, on the other hand, were the regrets, the mistakes and the disappointments that countered those blessings.
For years, I kept that article – clipped and yellowed after time – on my fridge. Traveling with us from apartment to duplex to house, it reminded me that life isn’t all roses or all thorns. No, life is full of both, and acknowledging (and even appreciating) both makes for real, beautiful living.
I’ve been working at my church for the past year. Going back to work after two years as a stay-at-home mom was a relief for many reasons – and I loved it. I loved being on “the inside” and seeing the inner workings of the church my family calls home, and more importantly, I loved the people I worked with.
What I didn’t love quite as much were the actual tasks I did on a daily basis. Not all of them. But some of them, I could’ve done without – and a few I flat-out dreaded. For a long while, though, that didn’t matter. I was working with people I adored for a mission I believed in wholeheartedly. When I stayed focused on those things, my actual job description simply wasn’t that important.
Then another opportunity came my way. And while it looked identical to my job at the church in the people-I-adore and mission-I-believe-in departments, it brought with it work-from-home flexibility and [my favorite part] work that fit into my skill set and gifts. I’ll spare you my lengthy and angsty mental debate. Long story short, I changed jobs a few weeks ago.
Despite knowing that I was making the right move, my last days at the church were full of tears. This is silly! I told myself, over and over. After all, I wasn’t leaving the church. I’d still be highly involved, leading a small group with my husband and serving in Kids City every Sunday morning. And just because I didn’t work with the amazing people on staff didn’t mean we would stop being friends.
But I knew, too, that things wouldn’t be the same. Relationships would change, and the new person would sit at my desk now and probably rearrange my pens and paper clips a different way.
I would miss my job. A lot.
One of the things I miss most about working at my church is our weekly staff meetings. What made those two hours on Wednesday mornings so special for me was partly just seeing everyone on our staff gathered in one place, laughing and sharing and updating each other on their ministry areas. But what I miss most, what energized and inspired me and held me over for the following week was sharing our wins and challenges.
No matter what else was on the agenda for the week, our pastor started each meeting by asking each of us where we were winning and what challenges we were facing. Our answers could be personal or professional (although in ministry, the line between the two is often blurred), and we could share as much or as little as we wanted. Most weeks, everyone shared something. And often, we stopped in the middle of the conversation to pray for each other.
Knowing my friends’ and colleagues’ wins and challenges meant I knew about them, and likewise, telling them about the victories and struggles in my own life let them get to know me. Those minutes spent whispering and shouting, laughing and crying, clapping loudly and sitting quietly opened doors and let us into each other’s hearts.
Hearing about the roses and thorns in my friends’ day-to-day lives gave me a fuller picture than if we’d only celebrated the highs or lamented the lows.
Sometimes it’s hard to share our struggles; none of us wants to be seen as weak or needy. Likewise, it can be difficult to say our wins out loud, too, for fear we seem prideful or even shallow, depending on what we choose to be grateful for. But sharing those things, the ones that lodge in our throats and live in the center of our hearts? THAT is how we truly build trust and relationships and community. No life is all roses or all thorns, but we’ve all got at least a little bit of both. And knowing about both means I see the real, whole you, living your real, whole life.
Today I thought we could share a little bit of ourselves here in this safe place where we all long to know and be known. I’ll start with my roses and thorns, then will you share yours in the comments?
Roses: My daughter is excited about kindergarten, swim lessons and her new devotional book. A blog post I wrote recently got a lot (for me) comments. And I’ve finally dug my house out from under the clutter and chaos that had been ruling the roost for the past three months.
Thorns: I’m trying to lose weight and It. Is. Hard. I’m nervous about balancing my time and priorities now that I’m working from home. And I’ve gotten out of the habit of a morning quiet time, and it’s wearing on me to go without quality time in the Word.
Where are you winning? Where are you struggling?