“The rose’s rarest essence lives in the thorns” – Rumi
I remember studying as an herbalist apprentice last summer. We were on a trail, four women, hiking through a high mountain forest in Oregon. The terrain was thick with depth and diversity and then it would unfold into holy sanctuaries of wild flower meadows; surrounded by choirs of trees.
We continued on our path; winding and ascending and descending. We passed a small waterfall and stood in its sacred mist as if being baptized once more. We pressed onward, slowly. It was always slow. We were never in a hurry; for there was much to behold.
When I hike, I often reach my hands out to greet plants along a trail as I pass by. To feel the leaves and the pines and the bark and the moss; to experience the textures. On the path there was a bush of bright pink-salmon colored flowers.
As I impulsively reached out to touch the soft petals of these blooms I felt a sharp pain. My finger was bleeding. The thorns were long, thin and sharp but all that my eyes wanted to see, all that my hands wanted to grasp, was the delicate and radiant wild mountain rose flowers. Yet, they were received together, the rose and the thorn, all in one.
I stored that moment away in my memory and pondered deeply the symbiotic relationship of beauty and pain.
We moved into our neighborhood about four years ago. We became friends with a retired couple that lived on our street. The two of them raised their children here long before we had ever moved in. He loved working on sports cars and she was an artist and a beautician. Then, he got cancer. She was strong and so was he. Their love for one another was unmistakable, and their pain was transparent.
We saw the sirens go down the street late one night—this was the day their lives changed forever. His death brought him to a place of beauty and free from the suffering. But her sorrow had only just begun.
In hard moments, it is difficult sometimes to know what to say and how to react. I find that sometimes words can feel forced, but I also want to be present, just as I would want others to be near if I were ever to go through such anguish.
Instead of words, I found myself gathering rose petals. For I knew that the rose, as an herb, is a healer of heart-pains. I filled a mason jar with petals and pure water. I then let it sit outside under the sun and under the moon.
I took this rose water extraction to her home as an offering for her grief. The vivid colors of the pink and red petals were magnified through the glass in the water. Visually, it was an art piece. I didn’t have to ramble my empathy onto her; the gesture made just the right words arise.
She held the jar close to her heart and shared with me, “My husband always called me ‘his Rose’… that was his name for me. And in this house I keep hearing his voice calling my name and every time, I feel his love.” Tears welled up in her eyes, as well as in mine. I sat with her there in the quiet. I had no more words to say. I just let her talk. I listened to her stories. I heard her pain and I heard her hope.
I knew that all I could do was listen and try to offer a space where her tears were safe with me. Tears are healing waters, they can bring people together. They mend open wounds and they offer resolution. Pain often comes before the shift.
My hands were pricked a few times while gathering that rose offering. The very essence of the rose itself is within the thorns. The pains in this life converge and re-shape our vision, our sight and our understanding before the beauty blooms from the ashes. Our pain brings us to places of discomfort but it also has the ability, within the depths of our aches, to arouse a posture of transformation. Our sorrows have the ability to open doors of re-alignment. Pain comes before the rising of the bloom.
I will say it again–the very essence of the rose itself is within the thorns. We see this in Jesus, who held out His offering to all of us. The thorns were pressed down firmly upon his brow, puncturing His skin. With a headdress of thorns, with His blood, the pain came before the bloom. The thorns pierced first and then He rose.
Christ calls us “His Rose.” We are his risen people. We keep hearing his voice calling our names and, every time, we feel his love. Every time.
With the shift of perfect Love we are ordained as ambassadors of that Love. Through the pain, we rise. Through the tears, we find the healing waters. Through the thorns, we find the rose. We carry them both in remembrance, and in faith, of the bloom.
Jenny Rose Foster was born and raised in the rainy green state of Washington. Here, she lives a life of adventure with her best-friend and husband, Joshua, and their two children, Jade and Jethro. Together, Joshua and Jenny journey through this life as a team–partnering in their own remodeling company and home-schooling the kids. Not so long ago they were two punk-rock high school sweethearts but soon they will be celebrating 15 years of marriage. Jenny loves to spend her winter weekends on the mountain slopes skiing and her summers in the great outdoors paddle-boarding, hiking and camping. Jenny treasures opportunities that bring people together. Jenny writes with a desire to create beauty that preaches beyond the limits. You can find Jenny on Instagram and on Facebook.