Owwies Make You Stronger

This summer I made a new friend.

Three-year old Titus.

His father, Daniel, is one of the pastors leading the Urban Youth Outreach in Englewood – a gang-plagued, violence ridden neighborhood of Chicago.

A gregarious little guy, Titus loves to talk and play with his older sister Arielle and all of the other neighborhood children who flock to the outreach play yard. With his charismatic personality and gift for gab, Titus is surely an evangelist-in-training.

One morning as he mingled with our mission team he showed off his finger with a dangling bandage. He bravely peeled back the adhesive strip to show each person his “owwie” long enough for each one to commiserate with him.

After several people had gotten a good look at his wound he smiled confidently. “That’s O.K. because owwies make you stronger.”

Suddenly, innocence deafened the world’s cacophony that had dulled my ears.

Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Are you listening? I am speaking.”

A truth renewed.

Trials make you stronger.

Pain can be a stimulus for growth.

And when rooted in the Word and will of God, perseverance in trial brings hope.

And perhaps most importantly, as children of God, we are never alone in our sufferings.

Years ago, I endured a season of brokenness. I felt completely worn. As my young daughter lay in the hospital, critically ill with a failing heart I searched the scriptures for a word to sustain me. God did not disappoint. He led me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; (just breath, child, He whispers)

perplexed, but not in despair; (don’t over analyzeinhale my peace)

persecuted, but not abandoned (relax in my love, I am right beside you)

struck down, but not destroyed (my hand will lift you up, I will protect you).”

The word of truth forever sealed in my heart.

Trials hurt.

But Love heals.

Love is waiting. Embrace the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

The Warning Signs

I’ll spare you the gory details, but I suffered a toe injury. Then thanks to my ability to minimize my body’s natural alarm system (PAIN means Alert! Alert! Attention needed!) it got worse.

I knew a visit to the doctor was warranted, but I kept putting it off. In part, because I didn’t want to hear any sensible advice (like stay off your foot) that might interfere with a two-day trip I had planned with some girlfriends.

So I ignored the warning and went on my trip. After the first day my toe was sore, but hadn’t really gotten any worse. However, the second day we did some extensive walking. By the time I returned home my toe was visibly swollen and throbbing with pain.

I scheduled an appointment at the clinic for the next day.

By morning my toe hurt so badly that I was unable to find a single pair of shoes I could tolerate wearing. After settling on some open-toed sandals, I made my way to the car using the ever popular step-drag method. Add a hump on my back and I could hear the bell towers of Notre Dame calling me.

It was when I stepped out of my car in the clinic parking lot that I knew I was in real trouble. Up to this point I had managed to downplay the impact pain had on my mobility. Now parking as close to the entrance as possible, the door still seemed like a football field away.

Two other women got out of their cars at the same time I did. One was about eight months pregnant. The other had her foot in a surgical boot. In the race to the front door I came in a distant third.

By a long shot.

During my appointment as I experienced some painful procedures, the practitioner threw around scary words like MRSA and staph infection. I left with two double doses of antibiotics and an appointment with a podiatrist.

All from a tiny innocuous injury to my big toe. Crazy, right?

But here’s the thing. Sin is like that, too.

Little words or actions I know are wrong get diffused in my mind. I begin to reason that what I said or did wasn’t “that bad”. Rejecting accountability by letting those sins continue without correction assures that inevitably things will get messy.

In reality, sin is sin. And when left unattended it can grow and infect.

Here’s just one example. (And in the name of truth I will admit that I have suffered the consequences as both the recipient and the perpetrator.)

Words have the ability to build up or tear down and sometimes the line gets slightly blurred. Ignoring that a cutting comment clothed in humor can diminish another’s self-worth, unkind words are uttered in a joking way.

I’m not saying that humorous or silly remarks are bad. It’s the manner in which they are spoken. When innocent remarks begin to morph into hurtful sarcasm the warning bell in our heads should begin to sound.

Why do we think that as long as someone laughs along with us, the verbal slap didn’t sting? The person who said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a liar.

Thoughtless words can land a permanent wound on the recipient. If I am not actively “encouraging one another and building each up” as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, then I am in opposition to the Word and inviting sin to have a comfy spot in my heart.

By downplaying the damage, I can easily end up with a sin-sick soul in need of more than a double dose of antibiotics.

Fortunately, I know a really great Physician.

Heeding the warning signs of my sin, I can run to Him in sincere repentance and find that He is the antidote for any pain. Every cure, whether reprimand or restoration, is rooted in His abounding, unending love for me. Simply put, I can trust God to know what’s best for me.

Each visit yields another lesson learned and increases the likelihood that I will respond to repentance’s call the next time the alarm is sounded.

I am so thankful that the LORD’s clinic is always open for counsel and healing.

Free of charge.

It’s a good thing, too, for as much time as I spend there I could never afford the co-pay.