Leaving Old Bandages Behind

You may have never seen anything as equally sad and cute as a one year old in a sling. (And if you say those Sarah McLachlan commercials, I’ll have to ask you to stop reading.) How do small children not break bones more often? Ours falls approximately 37 times a day. Off chairs, over toys, running down the hall. Recently, she got a running start and went face first into a door frame.

On the afternoon that she fell and landed in just the right (or wrong, I guess) spot, Michael and I (with all our vast medical expertise) diagnosed her with what I am now referring to as “jello arm”. As in, we would lift her arm over her head and she would drop it like it was made of jello pudding. Now, I am generally a very level-headed person. So naturally my first instinct was that her bone had somehow turned into mush and we needed to call 911 and maybe they could grow it back like Harry Potter’s?! Michael, thankfully, was much more calm, called the doctor’s office to let them know we were on our way, and even thought to drain the hamburger meat that was cooking on the stove and put it away before we left. How completely rational of him.

The doctor’s verdict was it was probably a fracture. On to the ER. X-rays couldn’t confirm (which apparently is not uncommon at that age), but they suspected a fracture as well. She got a splint and a sling and they sent us home, WAY PAST an acceptable bed time for a 16 month old. The next day we had another appointment with our regular pediatrician who twisted her arm in all the same painful ways it had been twisted the night before and again she suspected a fracture. Another appointment was scheduled with an orthopedic doctor to determine if she needed a full blown cast. We were instructed to watch her closely over the weekend as she most certainly had something serious going on in her arm and if she was in pain, take her to the ER immediately. This is serious. Got it. (Side note: Abigail is really trying to make sure we meet our annual deductible as soon as possible this year. Bless her.)

We spent the weekend doing very laid back activities. Books. Puzzles. Sunday she seemed to be feeling much better and was moving her arm a lot more. She was also really enjoying her sling and finding lots of things to do with it like store toys and wipe yogurt off her mouth.

On Monday, we head to the orthopedic. Ladies, you know how your car will make that funny noise and it does it every time you drive the car, but as soon as your husband (or dad or older brother) get in to check it out, the car stops making the mysterious noise? That’s exactly what this doctor’s appointment was like. The wrap and the splint came off and if her chubby little legs would let her, Abigail would have been doing hand stands. The doctor was polite enough to at least “take a look at her”, which was difficult to do while she was doing chin ups on the chair beside me. And his diagnosis, which we knew the second that splint came off, was “there is absolutely nothing wrong with your child.” Obviously, but thanks for your expert advice.

The nurse asked if we wanted to keep the splint. Now, it’s not that I’m not sentimental. But one, gross. That thing’s been on her arm for 4 days and I got a whiff of it when it came off. And two, she doesn’t need it anymore. I don’t know if her arm really was broken and it miraculously healed over the weekend or if it was just a bad sprain. But either way, she doesn’t need that bandage anymore. And we literally left it laying in pieces in the middle of the floor and walked away. And I haven’t been able to shake that image since.

What Christ has done for us is miraculous. We absolutely were broken and He healed us and transformed us so completely that it’s as if we were never broken at all. Sometimes we try to hold on to our past and keep putting bandages on it. We can’t just leave it in the middle of the floor and walk away. We hang on to old labels: addict, adulterer, liar, immoral. But God has given us new labels: free, delivered, new, loved. Of Zion, the Lord said, “You will no longer be called Deserted, and your land will not be called Desolate; instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her…for the Lord delights in you…” (Isaiah 62:4, HCSB). A new name. A new label.

The blood of Christ doesn’t just put a bandage on your past, His blood has covered it. “He forgives all your sin; He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit…” (Psalm 103:3-4b, HCSB)

I want to leave old bandages behind. I don’t want to carry them around. They stink and I don’t need them anymore. I don’t need to keep a souvenir of the past. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12, HCSB). So I’ll leave those old bandages scattered on the floor and walk away. Not broken anymore.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, The Old Man is Snoring

Weird, obscure 20th century nursery rhymes anyone? The rest of that little rhyme, in case you’re unfamiliar is, “He went to bed and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning.” I’m not quite sure what the moral lesson is that we want small children to learn from this somewhat disturbing verse. Most nursery rhymes, in their original, not-modernized, versions tend to be on the frightening side geared towards scaring children into right behavior. For the record, I’m not necessarily saying I’m opposed to this kind of behavior modification, just making an observation. (If you don’t know me personally, please read that last sentence – and most of what I write for that matter – with a hint of sarcasm.) I will say, I don’t think “Rock-a-bye Baby” will be making an appearance on Abigail’s night-night playlist. Again…disturbing.

But speaking of behavior modification, this little rhyme is currently shedding some light on a little bit of bad theology that I think I’ve been hanging on to for far too long. Not too tightly, but just tight enough that it needs to be dealt with. I know it’s bad theology and every time I’m brave enough to say with words (out loud) how I really feel about a certain situation, I know it immediately. (Thank you, seminary education.) I know. It’s not right. It’s not how God works. But in all honesty, I am often tempted to believe that all circumstances impacting my life today are a direct result of how pleased (or not) God currently is with me. Let’s stop right there and say: This is no way to live!

Do you ever think this too? Everything seems to be going wrong so we wonder, “God, are you not happy with me? Have I done something to step out of your favor? Am I outside your will? Are you punishing me?” It’s difficult to unravel this bad theology, because sometimes, our circumstances ARE a direct result of our actions. The action is also known as “sin” and the undesirable circumstance is the “consequence” of the sin. But this is not always the case. Grace is also always at work. Sometimes your circumstances are the result of someone else’s actions. Sometimes your circumstances may be the result of something that happened before you were born. It would be impossible to expound on all the possible answers as to why we may be suffering in this way at this time in this context (sinful from birth, personal sin, sins of others, the world is a sinful place, the fall, etc.), so my short answer (and my current method of expunging this bad theology) is this:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.’ This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'” Isaiah 55:8-9 (HCSB)

I want to push back. I want to argue. I want to question, “But WHY God?” But these verses tend to always be the end of the conversation. And honestly, they bring such peace. In everything that happens in this crazy world, His ways are always higher, His thoughts are always better. We can’t comprehend it. And besides, when did Jesus say, “Follow Me and I will give you the life of luxury and ease?” (I keep looking for that verse and I just can’t find it!)

Sometimes it rains and it pours. And it may seem like God is mad or He’s just not paying attention. He was there, tending to our needs and then, I don’t know, He got distracted or He just had bigger fish to fry. OR He’s not happy with me. Nope there it is again. It’s so easy to arrive at this conclusion if we don’t see the bigger picture. That God is always seeing our situation from a much larger lens, that He sees our situation as it relates to all things past, present and future. That at times, my circumstances may be a direct result of sin in my life, but at other times it may be an opportunity to exercise faith to produce something greater. Or it may be a result of someone else’s actions. Or something entirely different. Maybe it’s not about ME at all?! His ways, His purposes, His thoughts…so much higher than mine.

Sometimes it rains and it pours. God is not oblivious. He knows. He is not the old man who bumped his head and can’t get out of bed in the morning. He is so present and sovereign and HE KNOWS!

It’s hard to understand sometimes, I know, that “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45b, HCSB). I assume that both sun and rain are meant to be positives in this verse, but I often associate ‘rain’ with not-so-good. Yes, it’s refreshing, but it also causes floods and sometimes it just pours and you want the sun to come out again. Either way, I have to stop believing that my good actions should return a blessing from the Lord, while my sins will incur His immediate punishment. It’s not that simple. That is a works-based religion. But we live by faith, set “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2b, HCSB). (Big side note: This grace and living by faith never excuses us from always pursuing righteousness.)

This is a 10,000 ft view of a very complex theological discussion about sin and grace (for further reading, see Paul’s letter to the Romans). But without knowing all the answers, I want to be able to live life in the reality of His abundant grace and not under the prospect of His impending wrath.

I don’t know all the answers. I’m so glad He does.