Thistles and Thorns

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2016 18 Oct

close-up of a spiny thistle with two bees on it

The other day I made a list of things that bug me—little things I can’t seem to eradicate from my life. Here they are:

  • a cluttered house
  • children who argue
  • slow cars in the fast lane
  • long grocery-store lines
  • clerks who are rude
  • telemarketers
  • plugged toilets
  • computer malfunctions
  • spam
  • pop-up windows
  • calling a helpline and getting none
  • misplacing my keys or phone
  • people who don’t clean up after their dogs

Admittedly, none of this is big stuff. But it’s often the little stuff that threatens to steal my peace. Listen to what a seventeenth-century spiritual writer by the name of Claude de la Colombière says about the annoyances that plague us:

“All our life is sown with tiny thorns that produce in our hearts a thousand involuntary movements of hatred, envy, fear, impatience, a thousand little fleeting disappointments, a thousand slight worries, a thousand disturbances that momentarily alter our peace of soul. For example, a word escapes that should not have been spoken. Or someone says something that offends us. A child inconveniences you. A bore stops you. You don’t like the weather. Your work is not going according to plan. A piece of furniture is broken. A dress is torn. I know that these are not occasions for practicing very heroic virtue. But they would definitely be enough to acquire it if we really wished to do so.”1

So what should I do with my list of annoyances? Tear it up? Wish it away? Or let it remind me that God has a tried and true strategy for building up his life in me? Come to think of it, maybe I should take that list and draw lots of thistles and thorns around it, reminding myself that far from stealing my peace, little stuff can increase it.

  1. George Guitton, Perfect Friend: The Life of Blessed Claude la Colombière, trans. William J. Young (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company, 1956), 326, quoted and paraphrased in Bert Ghezzi, Adventures in Daily Prayer (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2010), 59.