The other night my daughter came and found me long after she should have been asleep. I was watching TV and just about to get ready for bed when I heard, "Mom?"
I know you understand what I mean when I say that my stomach sank a bit, as it always does when one of my kids is out of bed when they shouldn't be.
Conjuring up an extra measure of patience, I said, "Yes, sweetie?"
"Mom, my finger hurts whenever I do this."
She then proceeded to bend her finger into a weird, unnatural shape, which made my entire hand start to hurt just watching, and she winced in pain.
"Umm...yeah, honey, I'm pretty sure my finger would hurt if I did that, too. So why don't you just not bend your finger that way and we'll call it a day, ok? Sound good?"
You'd have been proud of how cool I played it even though I was ready to throttle her from here to next year for not having gone to sleep yet.
"But Mommy, I think my finger's broken. Something's really wrong. I'm telling the truth, it really really really hurts when I do THIS!"
There went the weird finger contortions again. #Ew
At this point I was getting irritated. After all, this was nonsense. Anyone with the ability to reason could deduce that her pain was self inflicted, and her lack of rationale was throwing a cramp in my style.
I gave her a Band-aid for her invisible injury and sent her to bed (in tears of course), assuring her that she'd feel better when she woke up the following morning.
After a good night of sleep, I woke up early to make the kids breakfast and pack their lunches for a field trip. I called the kids downstairs to eat before school, and my boys came running. No Emerson. I called her again. Still nothing.
Finally I went upstairs and found her in her room, sitting in the middle of her floor, bawling her eyes out. That's always a fun way to start a school day, right?
"Em, what's wrong, honey? Didn't you hear me call you for breakfast? You need to come down now or we're going to be late for school."
The sobs increased in volume, and she gasped and held her finger up in front of me.
"It's my fingerrrrrrrr! It's brokennnnnnnn! I need to go to the doctorrrrrrrrrr!"
Oh. My. Word.
I took her finger in my hand and gently poked and prodded at it, asking her, "Does this hurt," and, "Does that hurt?" I squeezed and pulled and...nothing. She was fine. Finally I asked her to show me again where it hurt.
She held up her hand and started the finger gymnastics again, and --
I think I shocked her into reality, because the tears stopped mid stream and she sat up straight and asked, "why did you yell at me, Mom?"
I took a second to gather myself, and then responded slowly and clearly.
"Because I was watching you hurt yourself, and I hate to see you in pain. I knew your finger was okay and that it wouldn't hurt if you'd just stop doing that weird bendy thing to it, but you wouldn't listen to me. I tried to get your attention over and over so I could explain the problem to you. Finally I had to yell just so you could hear me over the noise of your crying. Now, if you're ready to listen, here's how you can stop your finger from hurting..."
Finally, it clicked. She stopped doing Cirque Du Soleil with her hands and resumed normal dexterity, and suddenly she was pain free.
I finished getting everyone ready and out the door to school, but later as I was alone in the quiet of my house I found that I was still bothered. When I finally paused to reflect and dig into why I felt so ruffled, it became glaringly clear.
I am my daughter.
I take a life that was originally intended to be pain free and I twist and turn and bob and weave and spin a web of sin so thick that I find myself tangled up in it. I do the things I was never meant to do and in the process heap pain after pain upon myself.
All the while, God is saying, gently, "Stop. Just stop and you'll be okay."
I argue, "But Lord, don't you see, it hurts when I do THAT!"
He says, "Then don't do THAT. You're bringing it on yourself."
The problem is that I can't hear Him over my weeping. I keep doing THAT and He keeps saying, "Stop."
And on and on it goes, until finally He booms:
Finally I'm silent, shocked into listening. And finally He can say:
"If you stop doing THAT, the pain will subside."
And suddenly it clicks and I stop doing THAT and I'm at peace again.
Oh, the unnecessary pain we put ourselves through.
I don't know what THAT is for you. For me, THAT can be a multitude of things, depending on my season of life and my vulnerabilities. See, Satan knows how to make THAT look good. He wants THAT to appear so attractive to us that we'll see THAT as life giving instead of a death sentence. He's the master of disguises, and he's the best at leading us to THAT, like sheep to the slaughter.
And all the while our God is saying, "Watch out for THAT! You're going to hurt yourself!"
And He's right. He's always right.
We think we have the ability to reason because we're grown ups and we do hard things and lead big lives, but nothing compares with the mind of God. He knows that our sinful selves will screw up a good thing every time without the power of the Holy Spirit in us to lead us away from sin and toward holiness. He and sin cannot coexist. He is the Author of Life, and sin leads to death. But, like any gentleman, He'll never force our hand.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. -- JAMES 1:12-15
He wants peace for our souls, and He knows the way to find it. We want immediate gratification and quick fixes, and so we keep on crying out in self-inflicted pain, all the while wondering how to make THAT stop.
The voice that can calm the wind and sea and spoke man into existence with a word is telling us:
Lord, that we'd listen to Your wisdom and stop being contortionists in our sin. Lead us to walk the straight and narrow of obedience, even when it's hard, because to know You and to walk with You is to know and walk in peace.
And thank you for loving us so much that, when we act like whiny little babies and we complain about our self-inflicted pain for the UMPTEENTH time while you are wanting to go soak in a heavenly bath and take a snooze, you patiently calm us and you even give us a Band-aid. Of course, it better be a legit, colorful character Band-aid. None of those flesh colored strips for me, please and thank you. I'm a Doc McStuffins girl all the way. If you run out, they have them at Target.