by: Sally Smith
From birth most of us spend much of our lives avoiding pain. We naturally recoil from things that hurt us, sometimes going as far as to strike first to avoid being the recipient of pain. Often this tendency is helpful, it helps us learn not to touch the stove or avoid marrying someone who is constantly mean to us. Sometimes, though,this same tendency ends up hurting us more than it helps us.
This principle was illustrated vividly for me on a recent beach visit with some family members. J.P., my cousin’s two-year-old son walked outside without his shoes on and came back in crying about a pain in his foot. He refused to put pressure anywhere but on the toes of the offending foot and limped around the cabin crying about it.
When we offered to help him any time we got close enough to look he protested by crying, kicking, and pulling his foot out of reach. From a distance we couldn’t see anything in his foot and wondered if there was really anything there. After the initial shock wore off, he stopped crying but continued limping around and asking to put his shoes on.
When his mom brushed sand off his foot he screamed in pain when she brushed by that spot, but still refused to be still enough for her to examine his foot. In the final brush, Kristin, his mom, felt the offending sticker that had become lodged in the bottom of his foot. No amount of logic could convince J.P. that it would be in his best interest to risk additional pain to have that “pokey” examined and removed.
Tweezers were brought out in anticipation of the procedure, in spite of his protests. When J.P. saw the tweezers he happily took them to attempt to remove the “pokey” on his own, but none of his efforts even came close to fixing the source of his pain. Even after failing at his own attempts to fix his pain, he remained determined that it would be better to limp around on half his foot for the foreseeable future than to trust his loving parents to examine and remove the source of his pain.
I wonder how many times we act like J.P., wounded by something small or large, determined to avoid it or manage it ourselves in order to prevent more pain, not realizing that our very avoidance perpetuates our misery. J.P.’s problem was invisible to the naked eye, and he certainly wanted to go on pretending it wasn’t there, yet that invisible, avoided pain was shaping much of his current action and attitude. The longer the pain went avoided, the greater risk he would have faced of infection or other complications and the more joyous moments he would have avoided.
J.P. ended up being held tightly so the “pokey” could be removed against his will. What will it take for you to determine to face up to the pain, visible or invisible, that you have been avoiding? Which areas of your life is the heavenly Father asking you to let him examine, remove, clean, or soothe?
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my anxious thoughts, see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.