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.

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.

Stretching Beyond Issues

I am a sucker for track meets. There I said it. Maybe it’s my middle school self that did the field events, or that most of the time it’s the Olympics I end up seeing. But something draws me in to the foot races. Having just taken up running in the last year or so I like to watch how they pace out or in relays where they hand off.

But mostly I like the close sprints at the end. I like the throwing of the body into every possible high gear imaginable and then seeing the stretch of the competitors as they cross for the hopeful win.

I was thinking on this as I watched the video recently of the Senior Olympics and the elderly women competing. One woman was walking the 100 yards, and still hauling tail doing it. But I didn’t see the women in this particular race pushing and stretching across the finish line. They’ve been there before. They have competed and are in the final laps of life (sorry to bring it down there) but that competitive streak just wasn’t there. They made it to that point and they were good with themselves.

Of course this has made me think about what we reach for in our lives. How we stretch to grasp a particular thing in our lives. And I come back to a story about another woman who stretched in faith to obtain something she desperately needed.

We don’t know her name, but in a just a few sentences we see much about her life story. We find her in Matthew 9, as Christ is being called to the home of a Jewish leader at the death of his daughter. This is after the incident in the boat, where Christ calls out for peace in the midst-pointing to the disciples lack of faith in the midst. She is a woman who probably has been cast out of the village, separated because of an ongoing condition that made her unclean. It probably also meant she was without children and possibly without a husband. She was dealing with a medical issue that had gone on for 12 years, intermittently.

She was unclean. Cast out. Alone. Questioning. Seeking healing.

I find I identify with her sometimes. The perception of so much rolled into one person…just fighting to get within arms’ reach of Christ. I wonder how long she journeyed, how long it took her to approach Him. But she came.

She came seeking. She came stretching, in the faith that He would make her well. Being in His very presence encouraged her faith in Him. I don’t know if she pondered, but I like to think she saw her opportunity and believed on Him in a split second, reaching to touch just His garment. Knowing that was enough. That HE is enough.

Trust. Faith. Hope.

Never more do I see faith in action than when I read this story and think about her. Those times when I see that I need to stretch and I allow the doubts, fears, my own voice, my ego, pride, and sin tell me to pull back and trust in my own way instead. I want to cling to that faith that I drew into 17 years ago. The faith that I cling to and grasp ahold of with all that I can hold. Oh but to reach just a bit farther into His Presence, in the midst of mourning, of busy and chaos, just to be healed.

That faith that Christ admonished the disciples for lacking so little of she was filled with in just a moment. She knew it was only in Him would salvation be found, the blood would stop draining from her and she would be made clean, whole.

All it took was a reach of faith. Stretching beyond herself into Who He is. Trusting His Presence more than self. Believing in faith bigger than anything else this world wants to offer as a distraction, respite or temporary salve.

And so I reach beyond my own boundaries, my own self to be in His Presence. Faith confirmed. Faith assured.

Stretching for His touch, believing it’s about Him and not in my power.

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.

Wisdom Teeth, Bikes and Healing

This week has been interesting. The end of one year and the ushering in of the next…returning home from a week in my hometown…putting away Christmas decorations…a visit from family…and having a bit of oral surgery.

Yeah, I finally had those pesky wisdom teeth out this week. Much to the surprise of anyone that knows me, this is only the second time I have ever been in surgery. If you don’t know me well, I am incredibly clumsy/daring in my pursuits in life. I’ll show you the rocks in my knee if you ask nicely. Remembering the last time I had surgery, which coincidentally was just a bit north on my multiple-times broken nose, had me rather fearful of getting them removed. So after having five wisdom teeth removed (yes FIVE because I am an overachiever obviously) the surgeon said I would take a bit longer to heal because of my age, thanks doc.

Me being the curious learner that I am I started looking up healing times and methods to aid in recuperating once the anesthesia and loopiness wore off. Trust me when I say, never look at the images of wisdom tooth extraction or dry sockets. I got mildly freaked out. But what I learned upon reflection over the last five days is something that none of those sites, or photos, could quite reveal.

Healing takes time.

I know, I know, this isn’t new to anyone. But I think in this fast-paced environment we all find ourselves in we expect immediate relief and fast-action. I took heed to what the doctor and the nurse said. I listened to my wonderful mom who said I needed to rest and take the medication prescribed. I have to follow protocol and not jump quickly back into eating foods that could set me back. There was discomfort, but I knew I also didn’t need to suffer through it that I had to be diligent (and still do a bit) addressing it before it became worse.

I think that applies to all sorts of circumstances where we need to heal, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. We must dress the wound, taking care to not reopen it but also allowing slow reentry into life. For if you keep a wound completely bandaged and covered it will become dependent upon the shield of safety rather than growing accustomed to situations of life. Daily or even hourly we must be diligent to address areas that need to have salve applied or smoothed over.

Healing from anything must be given the time due it, as well as the space. Eventually though it comes down to testing the waters of the healed wound. We cannot exist in a continual healing state because then we become stagnant, unchanged and untested.

When I busted my knee open (the one full of rocks) I had done it riding my bike and showing off a bit as an eight year old. I couldn’t ride my bike for a while as my knee healed around those rocks, but there came a time where I had to decide on my own whether I would take that curve again and risk hurting for the joy that I had once felt.

Let healing have it’s due time, but also create new joy in process. Never let a scar keep you from taking the curve.

We’ve All Got Bruises.

People will say what they will. Don’t let those words define you.

I’ll be honest. I struggle with that. I mean strug-gle. People wield words like swords to cut and wound. It is astounding to see that in my 30s. From people of all ages. Older. Younger.

Am I guilty of it too? YES.

Does it absolutely suck to admit that? To reflect that I have bought into that cycle too? Absolutely.

I had to admit it to myself though first. To admit I have used words, the gift of my words that has been given me to wound others. I believed them true. In my hurt and in my pain. I had a lot of bruises. I wanted nothing more to talk about them. To point at them and tell you how they came to be.

Recently I have learned of some words that were spoken of me, by someone I held respect for. I immediately wanted to react. I felt myself rising up with such anger and frustration that this person would take liberties with my character the way they did. Then I remembered that wasn’t the response I wanted to have. Deep down I wanted to stop, remember those words don’t define me until I choose to live into them. So I decided right then the bruise may be there, but I didn’t have to inflict the next one.

I also didn’t have to wear it as a badge of honor. I can heal, forgive and learn from it. It’s a choice I think we all have to make in life. In confronting the tension in what others say about us and whether we choose to live into that or not. Choosing to believe the ugly that others project onto us will only make their perception our truth.

What would it look like if we…if I chose to not buy into their words and instead lived out what I am called to be? A servant and lover of others.

Am I serving through my words?

Am I loving others with my words?

Those are the two questions I am asking myself each time. Each morning. In the tense moments. In the moments I want to wound back. In the times I get hurt.

I am a work in progress. As are each one of us. I think we need to remember that a bit more in our lives and our interactions and with our words. I think I need to remember that most of all. If that lesson and this thought adjustment had to come from that bruise, then I am glad for it. What that individual meant for harm, God meant for good.

That’s not something I remember at the time, but I am beginning to…and beginnings are good.