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.

House of Stones

Since you have tasted that the Lord is good. Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood… (1 Peter 2:3-5 HCSB)

Of all the things to be, a stone would not be what any of us would probably choose for ourselves in imagery. Stones are rough. They are jagged, they are thrown, used as markers, kicked around, and sometimes they roll. I was thinking on this choice by Peter, impressed upon to write by God, about the believers being living stones.

He reiterates the phrase we see from the Old Testament, affirming Christ as the cornerstone. Peter, who is called by Christ, the foundation of the new church after His ascension. I wonder if Peter picked up on that theme for his life. I wonder if he had a builder’s mindset and so naturally the imagery presented itself fully through him. (I digress…and look forward to talking with him on these things in eternity)

Knowing that the Lord is good, we come to Him our cornerstone who binds together the foundation of salvation, IMG_0740laying a straight path to build upon…us living stones. Having taken geology in college I know there are various types of stones, throughout various landscapes across the globe. In order for the stones to be laid and a house to be built, they would naturally have to be shaped and molded…knowing that the various stones are all equal in size and perfectly produced to lay flat. It means that they have to go through a process of refining, sanding and smoothing. Rounded and shaped in order to fit one another, and lay upon the foundation.

That doesn’t happen without friction and it doesn’t happen to just one stone but all the various ones used to build the spiritual house. We, as living stones, know what it means to feel that friction, the tension of the builder sanding away the rough edges, filing down our outward selves in order to fulfill a purpose in building, to be a part of the framework. The builder chooses the ones rejected by others because time and care go into building with stones. It’s labor intensive, and it’s gritty. You don’t expect to be chosen and not refined in the process.

He grabs us by our rough edges that we stumble to Him with, and there are days we see evidence of the rounded corners, a smooth exterior forming after a time of forming. Other times, He chips away at an area we didn’t know was rough, in order for us to be laid wholly and completely alongside of one another in the building of a royal priesthood…a house that will stand whatever weather may come, insulating and holding fast throughout eternity. They are bound up and sealed with Someone far stronger than any binding agent.

It’s interesting to know that those masons who choose stone to build with each have a unique signature to their work. In the midst of the friction, on the days of smooth edges I wonder if the signature of Hands That Form Me are apparent.

Hating Your Story

I love hearing people’s stories. I love the whole art of storytelling. I grew up not far from the national center for storytelling, and each fall we would field trip it down for their big festival during school. We would sit in big canopied tents, or on tree stumps and hear these vivid tales of long ago spirits and families.

I knew most of it was fiction, but as I grew older I found that the stories of people’s actual lives truly enthralled me. As much as I love to talk, I love to listen because you find out about a person by the stories they share.

But some people wish their stories were different…that parts of their past would just not have happened or that it wasn’t theirs to own. I have thought much on this recently as my own story found itself being written in a way I truly did not ever think it would be. While I have had to truly work and pray through the story as I write with God’s hands on the pen, I am not hating the story I have in me.

I wondered as I thought on the whole topic of your story if Paul hated part of his story (I told y’all I am a Paul girl). The very thing he was killing over was the very thing he became. He was hunting the person whom he would be known thousands of years later for being-a Christian. It’s a redemptive story, and one we love to share in church and small groups.

It’s easy to see the redemption of it years later, how God wove part of his past into his work for the kingdom. But maybe that’s hard for you to see today, as the story is just getting written. Or maybe it has been years later and you don’t like to talk about that part of your story because of the shame you think it will bring back, or it will change how people see you.

I cannot guarantee that won’t happen, because we are human…and like it or not, we judge when we shouldn’t. It’s a product of our sin-nature and one that we constantly struggle and strain against in moments throughout the day.

In 1 Corinthians 15 we see Paul point to something pretty spectacular about his story that he could very easily have hated…don’t miss it:

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.  Therefore, whether it is I or they, so we proclaim and so you have believed.

It’s God’s grace that brings our story into light…that turns the shame into joy, the guilt into freedom. Hating part of your story is a sure fire way of missing out on God’s grace to use it for another. It isn’t our story but His that He is continuing to write.

While parts are still being edited and reworked in my story, I don’t want to hate what He is doing and miss getting to proclaim the work He has done. Ultimately He pens the book of my life if I allow Him, and choosing to hate or erase a part that brought me to His mercy, love and freedom would be to hide the very characteristics He authored in me.

Be a Hur.

I do not like to be dependent upon anyone. Some have attributed this fact to some of the root cause of my present singleness. Over dinner earlier this week with a couple of girlfriends I even admitted that I know I am independent and it would be hard to “lose myself” in my husband when the time came because I am just wired to be independent.

As I have begun to think on that further, on how independence and dependence are shaped, I found myself turning to a friend in the midst of a spiritual battle. It was a reminder that at moments of faultering weakness, when my flesh and my body fail, knowing my God doesn’t and He knows we need that dependence at just the right moment.

I had been thinking on the need for friendships, a healthy dependence to people who keep you accountable and also encouraged. In the relationships of life, it is those times of dependence that define friendship…when you turn as you are wrestling with thoughts or struggling to keep a mind stayed on His work…to that friend to pray, to sit with you in your need, to depend on when you just are not sure you can face whatever you find yourself in.

Exodus 17 is a favorite chapter of mine–odd I know since I’m such a Paul girl. But I love this picture of utter and complete devotion to a friend when life was on the line. You see the Amalekites came to attack the Israelites under Moses’ leadership. He chooses to send out Joshua and an army to meet them in battle…as he went above to hold the staff of God before the battle.

You see, God goes before us in battle. Something I often forget, and instead try to accomplish in my own power. But not only does He give Moses the power of victory, He gives him the gift of friendship in the midst of it.

While it doesn’t tell us this I think Moses began to see that as he held up the staff of God victory by the Israelites was apparent. However human strength that he had began to fail him, so Aaron and Hur bring a rock for him to sit and then….yall, and then they saddle up next to him and hold up his arms.

They too were with Moses in this battle….it was their fight too because the Lord was with them in it…He was before them and among them. He gave them the victory and the beautiful picture of what it means to be dependent upon friends. There were two willing to come beside Moses in battle, as he tried in his own strength knowing the Lord was with him, to support him and claim victory as well.

As I have gone into some battles this week I have seen an Aaron come alongside me to support my arms as I claim the victory in God’s Name. I am also getting to be someone else’s Hur in a similar way, pulling up a seat to be right by them as they face their battle-for it will be mine as well with them.

So who the Aarons and Hurs in your life? and conversely, who can you be an Aaron or Hur to? I think battles waged independently will find weakened hearts and tired arms, but those claimed in victory with God as the banner before the first strike are those fought with dependence-upon God and His provision of those friends in our lives.

The Ultimate Plan

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 (HCSB)

I am a planner by nature. I like to have a set time of meeting. I like to know where we will be going. I want it all laid out in a nice, neat package. Ordered and fixed. Planning for any and every issue that may arise.

I like a map. A trajectory. A path. An easily traced route. I like things neatly under my okay and control. Something I think many of us would agree with.

The verse above I have taped to my laptop, right at the very base of the screen. It serves as a reminder that no matter what I am planning, ultimately it is God who is ordering my steps. My plans may come to fruition, or they may look wildly divergent from what I mapped out. Each is it’s own blessing, even when I cannot see it or understand it.

My plan for my life at this age? Wildly different on paper than lived out.

The tension of planning is what we find ourselves in. That desire–and often something we deem a “need”–to control. The tension is hard because we want understanding. We want the why of a situation. We strive for knowing how He works in every single instance. We want the definition of living through a season, or going without for far more seasons than we had planned.

For the planners, for the people who have that  need for control, the need-to-knowers, He gives no explanation for where the steps lead, how the steps are to be taken, or why the steps are where they are. He doesn’t need to explain Himself. Living in the unknown is what those of us who plan our ways have the trouble in allowing Him to determine our steps.

We ultimately have to relinquish control. Control that we have never had, and never will. You see He’s a sovereign God. He’s all-knowing and all-powerful. I believe the plans of the heart have to be given over to Him. Not for approval but for release of control. To say I am no longer the contractor of this plan, but the implementer of a grander design, one that I am given only an 1/8 of a millimeter piece to view that spans trillions upon trillions of miles. I don’t control the sun coming up tomorrow, yet I know it will. He deems it good to do so.

So why sit in the tension of not understanding every move He makes and instead live in the abundant knowledge that the God who raises that sun up is the same God who determines my very steps? After all, He has much bigger plans than I could even begin to fathom.

An Armored Heart

Photo courtesy of disciplewalk.com

Photo courtesy of disciplewalk.com

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

For so long this verse meant to me a focus on your heart when it comes to relational involvement…boyfriend/girlfriend, crushes, marriage, and the like. It still does in so many ways. Lately though, I have found that guarding my heart has taken on a much different perspective.

I was not careful to guard my heart when it came to every relationship or situation. Instead I bore out my heart to people in ways that ended up being used to harm me–ultimately altering the course of my life.

I assumed the “guard your heart” business meant around those non-believers, those seeking ill toward me as a believer or having lascivious plans for my heart. Never did I once think about guarding my heart from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Isn’t that often what we find though? That we are hurt by those carrying the banner as family in Christ?

A guarded heart is one aware, not naive, but cautious in it’s pursuits and relationships. Not self-seeking but also not freely given. Guarded hearts seek understanding yet are slow to react. Choosing quiet and responsiveness over impassioned reactions. (Yes there is a difference between a response and a reaction) It is always on alert, armed for conflict and patrolling around the entire perimeter of the inner self, the heart within. There’s a reason why thieves often choose the cover of night to slip in, they need the darkness to intrude and steal.

A guarded heart is to be valued, above all else. It means not only I be on guard but entrusting it to God to safely hold it, knowing His promises are true and faithful. It determines the course of my life, and when not taken care to protect, it can lead to heartache and trouble that could have been protected against. The heart pursues, often after desired things-things not put before Him but of the flesh, when it is left unguarded. Taking care to mind what it engages in, and what it doesn’t, makes the courses of life diverge greatly in two directions.

Blank Space

Blank spaces can be exciting. Filling in your new married name…putting down the name you are giving a child…entering a new address….or even a new job occupation.  Reasons to be excited about a blank space.  But then there’s the blank cursor of a page. Or the blank dates in a calendar. The bare ring finger of a left hand. The quiet of an empty house.  All blank spaces that are painful and difficult. The stillness and quiet of something can be exciting and new or terrifying and lonely. We can look at the opportunity or see the bleak obstacle. I think both are equally worth pondering and also valuable in life. Each one having its own season of merit and definition in a life. I might be the only one but there are few more times that I am seeking to fill that page, with dialogue, action, adventure and life rather than allow the blank page to be bare. To sit and look at the openness with appreciation and the tension of the unknown. I want too much to push the words, the life, the filling of the blank space rather than be in it with myself. With God.  Blank space means that I have to be just me. With Him right there with me. That’s a scary and anxious place to find oneself sometimes all the time. Even when facing the good blank space,  not knowing (or being able to control) the outcome or what will fill it will always be a gamble. It will always mean that I have to relinquish what sense of control I thought I had in the filling of the blank space completely to Him. It means I stand there bare before Him giving over the pen, the hand, the heart and the mind for Him to do as He sees fit.  What a joy to realize. And what a frightening thing to live out. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t apprehensive of living in the blank space. But I am finding when I allow Him to come into that starched white area of life, in whatever season He is writing His name….and He’s been long doing it without my consent, this time I have handed it over willingly instead of fighting to put my own graffiti overtop of the prose He is writing that is my life.  So, sorry Taylor but the only name that will be written on this blank page will be God’s.