Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dying For The Lack Of A Wound

"Wounding blows cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the innermost parts." - Proverbs 20:30 (WEB)

Several years ago I fell victim to a very severely ingrown toenail.  My right big toenail had ingrown on both sides, curled upward and was cutting a path through the meat of my toe.  The podiatrist had me lie down on an examination table, pulled a screen over my lap to obscure my view, sprayed my toe with a deadening agent and, with the assistance of two or three injections of local anesthetic, removed the toenail.  In the process, my toe was laid open in three distinct pieces which had to be put back together.  The wound was horrible.  The doctor bandaged my wounded toe and sent me on my way with strict orders as to what I could and couldn't do and with a followup appointment in two weeks.

Permit me a moment to focus your attention away from the details of the operation and on to that which caused it to become necessary.  It was brought about by my own negligence.  Several months earlier I had noticed a pain in my toe and some inflammation.  Rather than tending to it early on I waited with the false hope that it would eventually improve over time.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, the condition only grew worse to the point that I could hardly stand to walk.  I could blame no one but myself for the state I was in and, yet, I felt sorry for myself.  Truthfully, I had no right to.  I was my own worst enemy in the situation.

The day of reckoning came when, while out shopping with my best friend, his foot found its way onto the top of my toe.  Even from over five feet above the area of impact my ears could clearly discern the distinct sound of a squish.  When I arrived home the whiteness of the sock was cut through with the brightness of bloodstains.  It was time to go to someone with the ability to do more to help me than what I could do for myself.  The doctor examined my toe and informed me that the infection was severe enough that, had it been allowed to go further, could have cost me my toe, foot, leg or possibly my life.  I didn't want the wound the doctor would inflict upon me but I could have died without it.

From this experience several great life lessons were learned.  First of all, the time to address a bad situation is before it gets worse.  Why I didn't was a blend of fear of the unknown combined with human nature.  I was afraid to have a doctor look at the toe for fear of what must be done to fix it.  Furthermore, I was already in pain and was in no mood to be lectured about my negligence.  Is that not exactly what we do with our spiritual conditions?  We delay yielding ourselves to God for fear of what must be done in order to make right what we have made wrong.  Furthermore, our sinful human nature does not desire to hear that we have done wrong.  Oftentimes we would rather suffer the pain than admit we are responsible for it.

Secondly, I learned that others have the ability to hurt you and get you to a point you would not otherwise choose to go to.  I had no intention of visiting a doctor until my friend decided to walk on my toe.  My friend hurt me badly but, in reality, I couldn't be angry with him.  The pain was more because of my negligence than because of his action.  I ignored the injury.  I delayed treatment.  I refused to accept responsibility.  While it is true that he stepped on the toe, it would not have been an issue had I not already allowed it to become the infected mess it was.  The influence of a friend, who had no intention of hurting me, brought me to the point where I was willing to get help.  As human beings there are times when we will be hurt by our interactions with people because of the choices we have made.  Our response to those hurts will either be withdrawal or, what is better, an earnest plea for help.

Thirdly, I learned that there are times when we must look for someone outside of ourselves to help us.  Contrary to the teachings of many "self-help" authors, there is was nothing inside of me which was able to rectify my ingrown toenail.  I suppose I could have taken a pair of pliers and, with manly bravado, ripped the toenail from my toe and simply dealt with the consequences.  If the ignorance of that suggestion is not obvious then there is no way I could explain it.  I had to have someone who knew what they were doing to remove the toenail and provide me with treatment and instructions to ensure my proper healing.  The application here is almost too obvious to expound upon.  We do not like to be told what to do.  We like to live our own lives, make our own decisions and blaze our own trails.  But there does come a point where we cannot help ourselves and that point is in addressing the problem of sin in our lives.  We must look outside of ourselves to One who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and humbly accept His instructions, keep them faithfully and accept the healing that will come thereafter.

But these were not the only lessons I learned.  The last great life lesson came from the followup appointment a couple of weeks later.  I laid back on the same exam table as before.  My lap was covered with the same screen, my toe sprayed with the same numbing agent and the same needles plunged into my toe as before.  The screen was removed and I looked at my toe.  It looked just as horrible as it did on the day when the doctor removed the toenail.  I was angry and confused.  I had seen the toe heal.  It was almost completely well.  The toenail had begun to grow out again and there was an obvious path of return to normalcy.  At least that is what I saw.

What I didn't know was that the toe was healing from the outside which was, unfortunately, incorrect.  The wound had to heal from the inside and, because of this, the doctor had to preform a procedure called debridement.  The tissue which had grown over the wound had to be removed so that I could actually heal.  I thought I was healing but I really wasn't.  And, just as I could have died from the infection had I refused the original wounding of the physician, I could have died had I not allowed the doctor to preform the debridement procedure and wound me again.

In this I learned what was perhaps the greatest life lesson from the entire event.  There are times we think we are healed when we really aren't.  Wounds come again and again.  We think an injury has passed and gone and then, suddenly, something will occur in our life to reopen the wound and cause us to hurt again.  Fear not.  When this happens be mindful of the words of the writer of Proverbs: "Wounding blows cleanse away evil" (Proverbs 20:30).  There are things inside of us that can only heal by the reopening of wounds.  Yes, there will come a day when the Father finally binds the wound once and for all.  Until then other wounds will come.  When they do, lift up your eyes to the Great Physician and thank Him.  If He did not care for you He would simply allow those wounds to pass by you and you would die in the infection of your soul.  But, because He allows those wounds, you can rest in faith knowing that He cares enough for you to see you hurt temporarily that you may be healed eternally.

If it must be that I face the pain of repeated injury so that some deep seated evil which would ultimately destroy me could be removed, I trust my Father to wound me.  What is more, I trust in His ability to use the wounds inflicted by others to accomplish the same task.  If I will view my wounds with this attitude, none who wound me could ever truly hurt me.  I shall always be victorious for I know my wounds are not in vain.  None of our wounds have to be in vain.  We need not fear them lest we die for the lack of a wound.