Biopsies, Bandages and Sin

This week I had to have a biopsy done on an area that was of concern to my doctor. I was going in for a routine check-up and to ask about something in particular. This biopsy popped up out of no where once she did her check and it was a little startling. Biopsies are routine obviously as I have chatted with a couple of people about them since then, but let me tell you, I was not prepared for the slicing out of part of myself to then be looked at to determine if it was cancerous.

Nope. Not in the least.

I have a sheet of instructions for the next week or so to care for the area that was sliced, and let me tell you, it still hurts.

As I was re-bandaging the place this morning it got me to thinking about the unrealized areas of ourselves that often need to be sliced and put under a magnifying glass for review. Areas we weren’t expecting to get addressed but are brought to our attention rather suddenly and often hurt to have even a small amount removed for further examination.

We can be deceptively content with the comfort we find ourselves in-settled in the routines of life, only to be jarred with the painful revelation that all is not fine within us, whether it is our attitude, our words, our thoughts, our job, our relationships, our home, our hearts. So quickly it needs to be dug into, magnified and dissected to see if there’s a cancerous piece infecting it. It can be small and unassuming but when sin wiggles it’s way into those areas, it will spread and eat away from within.

So we allow God to reveal the deep down root of the sin in these areas, and then begin to apply healing to them. Slowly and deliberately, taking great care to see the cause of it in our lives and setting about through Him to remove it. Not just the spot, but the deep-seeded root of it. Then we seek out the balm and healing that only He can fully cover us in. It won’t be immediate, there will be waiting and echoes of the pain still there. But there will be lasting healing, there will be a space that once was eating away at us that is now filled with Him, His grace, His love, His forgiveness…with Him alone.

So maybe today we sit with our bandages, from where we have allowed Him to dig out the sin within, where we have examined what was within us and brought it to Him to dispose of. Bandages are not to be embarassments, they are proof of healing, proof of our weakness and inability to do it ourselves. Bandages show we are dependent upon something greater for healing, for restoration, for refuge. We wear them, not in shame but as evidence of His work in us.

Busted Tails and Lame Men

Last week I busted my tail bone. Flat out busted it, purple bruise, couldn’t sit straight for days. Let me tell y’all, it was not fun in the least. Almost a week later and it’s still hard to sit directly on it. I do not recommend busting it, ever.

If you are anything like me, when you are busted up or sick you really don’t want anyone around you or to ask for help. Yo don’t want to be seen as in need. Maybe it is just me, trying to remain independent and not be seen as helpless or in need of anyone but myself.

32926-support-illness-1200.1200w.tnBut what happens when we reach out for help? When we seek healing in the form of others’ assistance? We remind ourselves that we cannot do this alone and we are a dependent being.

In Acts 3 we see Peter coming off the sermon in the temple. The same Peter who weeks before had denied knowing Christ is now the Peter preaching His salvation and our need for Him. I love that…another beautiful picture of redemption. As Peter and John go into prayers at the temple they come across a man at the gate begging for money, unable to walk and dependent upon others to carry him there and others to give money either as they entered the gates or as they left. (The man was smart about where he put himself to ask for money due to his inability to walk)

Peter and John engaged him as they walked by, they wanted him to look them in the eye. Something that he probably thought odd since at that time a disability was a way to not look at someone, to not see them as human-often how many are seen even now. He wasn’t seeking healing but was merely seeking to settle for what had been his lot in life.  But Peter and John recognized the deeper healing that was needed, the healing of his heart, a renewal of his body in the strength of Christ and not money, or men. So not in their own power or authority but fully in Christ’s they tell him to get up, and he does.

I find that in my own times of desperate need I don’t ask for what it truly is I do need because I am blinded by the tangible in front of me. I am praying about this thing when He’s pointing to the deeper root of healing. He’s sending people in His power in my path to point me to the healing I need but I often am so focused on this thing that I miss it. What if this guy had missed it with Peter and John, focusing only on obtaining money from them to exist rather than to receive full restoration for the real hurt to be healed?

What if instead of walking past those hurting we fully see a hurt that we can speak healing into through Christ’s strength and power? Instead of denying others that privilege of helping us heal we allow ourselves the ability to share about our hurts, our wounds, our lame legs and weak hearts? What if we stopped trying to hide our wounds, our hurts and we started living into full healing that comes through Christ and His people?

 

That Year in Birmingham

In a couple of weeks I’ll be headed to Birmingham for an event. At one time, just after college, I called Birmingham home for a year. I have been back once, for a little over 24 hours, in those 13 years since I packed up a that Uhaul trailer with my dad and grandfather and booked it back to Tennessee.

In planning my trip back down, I couldn’t help but recall the first time I went to B’ham as a freshly-educated college grad knowing I had a job in baseball. One week in I was crumpled on the floor of my kitchen telling my sister it was a mistake to be there. That I had somehow made a terrible decision, living five hours from anyone I knew, and I wasn’t possibly going to be able to make it in this city that didn’t offer me much.

Part of me cringes at that memory because of the emotion of it all, remembering how bleak my outlook was and how incredibly alone I felt in that city. The other part of me rejoices though, because I am 13 years wiser from it. God drew me there, whether I wanted to recognize it or not, for a purpose and a reason. He led me there, to get me right here. He did some significant work in me over that year that I can only see in hindsight, and allowed me to work out who I was in some difficult moments.

Throughout my time in B’ham I made some poor decisions, I will own that entirely. My way, my will and my attitude won out on several occasions but I am also able to see how I needed to work out that in an environment where it was me dealing with Him without distraction or other voices bringing solace. Being there allowed me to see where He was not leading me and I was taking my own path and my own way. It brought me back to Him in a way which if I had remained in Knoxville I would not have seen nor chosen.

In so much hurt and grief we cannot possibly see how it’s for our good while we are in it. We cannot see how being alone in place, a place we don’t like and the circumstances aren’t how we would craft them could bring anything remotely resembling His good for us out of it all.

But it does.

It did for me. I am pretty sure it will for you too, if we let go of our expectation of the situation, our will and our way and accept the work God is doing without knowing what it is. The end result isn’t the point, it is what you are going through that’s refining you and making you who God intends you to be in His image, as His reflection and not your own.

The whole process, in the circumstance, in the location, in the job, in the relationship…all of that is the point. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of distance of years or miles to see it. To see how one of the worst and hardest times of your life was also one of the best parts of your relationship in Christ, with God through the Holy Spirit.

But we have to allow it. We have to accept it. We have to be willing to go through it, even in the ugly, even in the lonely, even in the longevity of it all. It’s never about us. It’s about the work He’s doing, we just have to receive it.

Bikes, Scars and Christ

I have a scar on my pinky finger from childhood. Me on my bike versus the mailbox at the end of our driveway = victory on the mailbox’s part. You can’t see it unless I point it out. The one on my knee? It’s minor as well. It’s from a similar accident with that bike and our driveway. Two scars, from doing something I absolutely loved to do-ride that beloved hot pink Mongoose.

You’d think that having two pretty bad, scar-inducing accidents on that bike that I would have stopped riding or not recall it with such fondness. But I do. 28 years after getting that bike it evokes such memories, such fun and carefree moments that were childhood.

“On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas or honors, but for scars.”
Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

When I read that I couldn’t help but think about my scars, the one on my pinky, the other on my knee, and the countless ones I have within me. Scars that often don’t evoke memories of fun, carefree moments but of past hurt, pain, life catching me by the hand and taking me to the ground. These scars are often very personal and remind me of struggles, whether with people or with God. Ones that I try to cover and shield from everyone, I blot over with smiles and cheerfulness, adding another coating of balm to hope it’s not seen by anyone.

Yet, He sees. He knows. He wants to see them. It’s those scars, those times where it cut the deepest that He was the healer. Did I always seek Him out first to heal? Nope. I take the good stuff to Him, like a child saying, “Look what I did! Look!!” But that’s all in me, in what I try to accomplish and not about Him and what He has said He will do.

But these scars? They are what He has placed His hand on, to work in and through. It’s how the story of Him gets told through me. It’s where He lives, in the deep wounds, to be a salve, a balm to a weary, heavy-leaden soul bound up with alot of false band-aids. He’s more about the scars than we think.

When He appeared to the disciples following the Resurrection, He didn’t come in a booming celebration with trumpets and honors. He appeared in the room with them. What does He say to them? In Luke 24 we see Him ask why they are troubled, why doubts are coming to their minds.

And then….y’all, and then He shows them His hands and feet. He shows them the scars. God Personified, perfect in all things, carries the scars of love, of sacrifice, of redemption. He showed them what it looked like to bear this out in life. It brings scars, but we show them. We share them.

We are told to be image-bearers of Christ, to be like Him in mind and heart, and this holds true here too y’all, and I have missed it all these years. We bear scars as He does. Only we cannot heal ourselves, we cannot redeem them for Him. He does that. He shows us that scars tell the story of love, redemption, sacrifice. They tell His story, if we allow them to, if we show them.

He graciously showed Thomas His scars as proof of Who He was (John 20:24-29) when He didn’t need to. May we bear our scars as proof of Who we belong to, Who He says we are…redeemed, loved, His.

Ripping the Bandage Off

Band-aid on hand isloated  white background.

As a kid, I think we can all agree, that taking a bandage off was kind of the worst. I think it hurt more than the scrape or cut sometimes when you would have to pull that off an arm or leg. In high school I had to have a couple of stitches in my shin and I can recall with clarity the bandage tape was more painful than getting the stitches out.

By far though I think emotional bandages are harder to take off. The pain and deep cuts underneath that bandage reveal our worst times of life. Times of loss, depression, addiction and brokenness. Pulling that bandage back means we are letting it breathe, we are taking the first step to acknowledge it is there and we are healing.

Sometimes it can catch us by surprise, and just like mom would say, “If I do it quickly, it won’t hurt as much.” I think that’s true to some extent. When we’ve been hurt or faced something that has cut us deep we need that initial time to bandage up and prevent infection in our lives. We tend to the wound and hopefully rest from life. We pull back and examine the events that led to the wounding.

But, just like our physical cuts and scrapes, if we don’t pull back that bandage and reassess, after a while the wound festers. It can get infected by the closing off of life. If we remove ourselves, bandaging up and dwelling on the wound for too long infections of life set in. Pride, ego, anger, bitterness, self-doubt. All these things will set up and spread throughout the person.

The anticipation of ripping off the bandage can be worse than it actually happening. Whether that means addressing the issue in yourself, facing those who have hurt you deep, or simply giving forgiveness it can be a difficult task mentally and emotionally to pull that off. I know for me, that if I hold onto unforgiveness with that wound, it will simply because such an infection that it pervades every piece of my life til there is no peace and simply an ugly, venom spewing existence.

Is it easy to rip off that bandage of emotional hurt?

Absolutely not.

In fact, I can say from very recent experience, that had I not prayed and sought wise counsel on it, I wouldn’t have been able to rip it off when I did. I am for certain that it would have begun to fester had the opportunity to address the wound and see the healing from it not presented itself when it did. We can grow anxious about pulling back the bandage or we can know that “in everything, through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, (we can) let our requests be known to God” and there we find peace that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:5-7)

Let me also share that while you may pull back that bandage, there may still be the need for healing to continue. You may need to redress and rebandage, even after pronounced healing has occurred. It’ll mean being watchful that your emotions are not controlling you through that hurt, but that you are giving way to continued growth and renewal from the wound. It’s also not an overnight, or even in a few weeks, healing. For many it’s weeks, months, and years.

Sometimes that wound gets reopened and cut deeper. Each time it gives place for healing to come and peace to invade when we let go of the anxiety of the bandage coming off.

The Hurt and the Healing

“There will always be someone willing to hurt you, put you down, gossip about you, belittle your accomplishments and judge your soul. It is a fact that we all must face. However, if you realize that God is a best friend that stands beside you when others cast stones you will never be afraid, never feel worthless and never feel alone.”-Shannon Adler

For the longest time I struggled with this idea that there are people, people who call themselves Christians even, who are intent upon putting others down or intentionally hurting someone. I wrestled so deeply with that reality where people, with directed intentionality, desired to judge you and who you are with no cause.

In the midst of that wrestling I lost the part where God is with me in it. He sits with me, He walks with me, He even cries with me. He weeps for us in our brokenness and hurt, in our pain and suffering. He is the one who proclaims our worth, not the words of someone else and especially not the lies they choose to tell for their own sake.

The words spoken by others may have a “here-and-now” effect on a life but they will not affect my eternity, nor do they nullify who or what God says I am. It would be so easy to step into the martyr role or the hurt role, turning it into my own version of judgement, throwing my own words out with entitled belittlement. But the same One who sits beside me in the hurt is the same One who reminds me to forgive, to show grace and mercy, and to love like He does.

Oooh it’s hard friends. It’s so very hard in the stillness to give forgiveness and love when you want to gossip instead because you know they did about you. It is so much easier to throw out insults instead of showing love. It’s also alot harder to choose to say nothing at all while saying a silent prayer for them and for yourself. Dwelling in it and on it will only bring about a divisive heart and mind. Choosing to get in the fray of it will most certainly lead to further hurt and brokenness.

Instead, even when it is hard, choose grace. Choose the mind of Christ. Choose to love like Christ. Forgive. And continue the journey with Him.

Seashells by the Seashore

When I was a kid my mom would get up extra early while we were on vacation. It would baffle this kid who would sleep until she was dragged out of bed screaming. She would tell me about her seashell hunting early, before others were able to snatch the all up. She even asked me each year if I would join her. 

Slowly over the years I have found myself collecting them each time we vacation. Getting a handful as I walk in the mornings, another handful as I play in the water with my nephews. I’ve got a rather large quantity now that I sit out each summer in a vase. 

Seashell picking is a rather unique and very individualized affair as each person chooses often a particular type or color, some seeking whole shells in their full form. I watched as my youngest nephew picked them the other night while we were out for a walk on the beach. He was picking based solely on what his perspective granted him in defining beauty. He would get so excited finding one that was “perfect” in his mind. He had two pocketfuls of the perfect shells to bring back by the time we were done. 

As I have found shells, I am realizing I gravitate toward the broken, the imperfect and the strewn about. I like the ones with rough edges and are mostly just pieces of a bigger shell long destroyed by the waves, people, things… Those pieces have survived, they’ve born out their duty and now lay on the sands of a beach on display. Showing the world they have arrived at a destination, beaten up and broken but still present. They’ve learned to grow ridges to protect what is carried inside, to weather the conditions of their environment and still be a piece of beauty to behold. 

The shells tell a story that I find myself drawn to as they bring hope and joy that even in the sea, you can emerge in pieces but at your landing spot. For someone to discover, to find beauty in, to see hope, and to bring joy. That someone is out there early today on the hunt specifically for you and what you have to bring to their life. Someone is seeking you for the perfectness that you are to them, so they can carry you close and carry you home. There’s even someone who is looking for you today that sees the broken state, the pieces this life has cast you into and desires your story and what you bring to this life.