One day I was pressure-washing the back deck at our house with a borrowed Honda gas-powered pressure sprayer. That baby was pumping out two thousand seven hundred pounds of water pressure per square-inch, and I was wearing khaki shorts and an old t-shirt as I peeled off a year’s accumulation of grit and dried bugs.
As I was spraying, I felt something crawling up the inside of my left calf. I looked down and noticed a spider trying to escape the cataclysmic tsunami I was causing.
Now, if you’re watering the lawn with a garden hose and see a spider on your leg, the natural reaction is to spray it off with the hose, right? Well, that same instinct doesn’t translate very well when the hose you’re holding sprays water so hard that it can blast decade-old spray paint off driveway concrete.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think about that.
Reflexively, I turned the high-pressure hose on my tender calf and sprayed the spider off my leg. I dispatched the spider with ease while taking off at least twenty layers of skin.
Life tip: Don’t use a high-power pressure washer on sensitive skin to knock off spiders. It hurts. A lot. And like a third degree burn, it’s one of those hurts that gets worse over time. Now I’ve got a scar there that kind of looks like the uniform insignia on a Star Trek costume.
My little fun with the pressure-washer reminded me again that life is painful. Hurts happen.
Sometimes our wounds are self-inflicted. In the case of pressure-washer vs. spider vs. my own calf, I had no one else to blame but myself.
I was watching Iron Man 3 the other night with one of my boys and the protagonist, Tony Stark, quipped, “A famous man once said, ‘We create our own demons.’” That’s often true. Sometimes our worst enemy stares right back at us from the mirror.
We hurt ourselves with thoughtless acts and poisonous ideas. We drive in our own daggers through addictions and mistakes. Our self-inflicted wounds leave us hurting and broken, but when we think about it honestly, we know who’s responsible.
The same is true when someone else causes the pain.
Sometimes our hurt comes from other people. You trusted someone, and she let you down. You confided in a friend, and he was indiscrete. Sometimes people take advantage of us. Sometimes people make mistakes, and we are on the business end of their blunder.
I’m not saying those hurts don’t hurt. They do. The damage is real and often enduring. Still, they seem fixable because you have a source. You know the culprit, and the order of cause-and-effect makes sense. And given time, reflection, and wise counsel you can usually come to a point of healing and forgiveness.
When your injury is self-inflicted, you can forgive yourself and move forward. When your injury is the result of someone else’s carelessness or malice, you still have the opportunity to learn from it, forgive, and move forward.
But what do you do when nobody is at fault? What do you do with an injury that shows up unannounced and uninvited?
There are times in my life when I’ve been right in the middle of God’s will, but I’m nevertheless led to a place of pain. None of my actions caused this, nobody else did it to me; the experience was just a painful, miserable place I found myself in.
These bitter places have no easy answers. Nobody is really responsible, so there’s nobody to blame. There’s nothing to correct. We have no one to forgive.
We know that God loves us and has a plan for our lives, but in those dark moments, in the midst of inexplicable sorrow, it’s hard to see. A thousand questions race through our heads:
“How can God love me and let this happen?”
“Does he even care about me?”
“Why did He do this to me?”
“How do I move forward? Where can I even go from here?”
“I know that God is my healer, but right now I’m hurting. How do I hold onto hope and not give in to despair?”
Fortunately, the beautiful little book of Ruth takes us by the hand and leads us through the bleak shadows of this kind of pain. In it, we find a gracious woman demonstrating how to walk between the hurt and the healing.
At some point in our lives, each of us gets knocked down. Everyone gets hurt. Even though we know that God is our healer, there always seems to be a gap between our injury and His mending. Our weeks, months, or even years in these gaps are some of the hardest experiences we will ever have to endure.
So where is God when we are in the gap?
The Gap: Between Hurt and Healing is available in print from Amazon and from the church bookstore at North Monroe. E-book versions for Kindle and Nook are coming soon!
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