That Really Bites

“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair…”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭61:3‬ ‭

“Why is there a rose on this willow bush?”

Hubby was asking on our recent camping trip.

Valid question.

Why indeed?

There wasn’t just one – there were several. Every heart leafed willow in our campsite had at least one. There was a tiny winding trail from the back of the site down to the water’s edge – and all along it were more of these roses.

(Is a fake rose growing on a willow called a ‘wose’?)

But I digress. Ahem. Back to the story.



Kinda gross, actually.

See, they are caused by a midge – a fly-like critter rather resembling a mosquito who wants to deposit an egg on the growth tip of the willow. It takes a few bites – ouch! – prompting the plant to take evasive action. The willow actually starts trying to contain the critter by growing around it.

Eventually, this response creates a ‘gall’, the perfectly protected home of a midge larva.

In this case, a gall shaped like a rose.

It’s a remarkable response to invasion, I must say.

And it gives me hope.

Do you see it yet?

The parallel, I mean?

Where has life bitten you?

Are you living with chronic pain? Mourning a partner, carrying the physical effects of trauma around in your body? Were you abandoned or betrayed by someone who promised to love you? Are you waiting for the other shoe to drop, treading on eggshells to keep the peace in your home?

That bites. It really, really does.

Our mountain ash got invaded by sawflies this summer – there is a stripped down rack of ribs where delicate leaf structure used to be. The birch is sporting woodpecker holes in its trunk. The chokecherry, as in every other year before this, seems almost proud of the holes punched all over its purple leaves from some sort of ravenous insects.

But this willow?

This willow did something different. This willow broke the mould.

It refused to be eaten.

It refused to be beaten.

It took a nasty painful experience and turned it into a thing of beauty.

But here’s the thing.

The larva is still inside.

It didn’t solve the problem.

Some of the pain you’re in isn’t ‘fixable’. You can’t make the dead come to life, make your spouse suddenly kind and generous, wave a wand and make the addiction disappear.

All of the trees mentioned had a pest do some damage. But only one made something beautiful in the middle of the damage.

The beauty is in the way we respond. We have a choice. But we need the power to choose and use what is hurting us to grow something beautiful in our life.

That power comes from Jesus.

Jesus, who can pour out blessing even while the tears flow. Jesus, who can provide comfort and assurance when we are in dark and troubled circumstances. Jesus, who can help us to choose to praise Him and be thankful even in the middle of being bitten.

It doesn’t make the pain disappear like magic.

But don’t you want to be like the willows, who respond to the bite in ways which add beauty and grace to the world?

I know I sure do.

Learn how to respond to pain in ways which look beautiful to others with me?

Father, life bites sometimes. We hurt. Thank You for understanding that. Thank You for taking what is painful and using it to build something beautiful in us. Amen.

Published by melodylowes

I am actually a bit of a mess. But in the mess, I’m finding security in knowing I am chosen, I am forgiven, and I matter. After uncovering a history of abuse in my past, I have done a lot of healing - and writing is one way I can invite you deeper into your own healing journey! I write devotionals about the complicated thing called life at, and my poetry is stashed at Pull up a chair and a coffee or tea and let's grow together!

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