Splinters, those nasty little pieces of wood or other barely visible materials that get stuck under our skin and reek all matters of havoc. Sometimes we feel them as they penetrate our skin. Other times we do not. We may only become aware that the splinter is there because something else agitates the affected area. Thus, the first sign that the formerly unnoticed splinter is there might be the pain we feel.
Traumas that pain our souls are similar to the splinters that cause pain in our bodies.
Whether seen or not, a splinter left in our skin will not only continue to cause us pain but can lead to an infection that adversely impacts the rest of our bodies. With any splinter, it must be properly removed, thoroughly cleaned, and nursed to a point of complete healing.
Why the lecture on splinters? Traumas that pain our souls are similar to the splinters that cause pain in our bodies. Although the steps are basically the same, those required to recover from trauma may not always seem as clear as the steps required to recover from splinters.
Many people will urge us to simply move on from our traumas. They forget the crucial step of taking care of the wound. Not properly removing and caring for the wound left by a splinter is like not fully dealing with trauma. We may try to move on from our issues but when not properly dealt with, our issues will not move on from us.
The process of removing the splinter can be just as painful as the splinter itself.
Because we didn't properly address what splintered us, the splinter and its inevitable effects are left to fester. Though the process of removing the splinter can be just as painful as the splinter itself, we must persist and get the job done. We have to apply pressure to the problem area in hopes that enough of the splinter will poke out so we can grab a hold of it. When removing the splinter, we can't use just any old pair of tweezers; they must be sterile.
Sometimes, we correctly remove the splinter but fail to clean the wound. An unclean open wound can lead to a more disastrous infection than the original splinter itself. Sometimes, the splinter is correctly removed and disinfected but the tiny area is not given the time or protection it needs to properly close and is, therefore, susceptible to still more pain.
There is purpose in dealing with our pains.
Healing from life traumas is a process just like healing from a splinter. Don't make the same terrible mistakes I've made. Many times, I pretended the trauma wasn't there, that it didn't exist. I allowed it to fester and I exposed it to other irritants. We as humans tend to want to power through our problems instead of dealing with them. We don't like admitting when and where we are weak or vulnerable.
Know that just like splinters, our spiritual traumas, if not properly addressed, will continue to haunt us. Don't allow pressure from others or a desire to quickly return to normalcy, cause you to rush your healing process. There is purpose in dealing with our pains. We must thoroughly remove the remnants if we are to be free from their consequences.
Let's do some more spiritual work using our story “One Toe In”. If this is your first week joining us, we've been discussing the decisions we make when we reach obstacles in our journey. Here's a brief recap:
You're heading towards a beautiful destination but are unsure how to get there. You were granted a guide to lead the way. You and your guide. along with another traveler and guide approach a roaring river. Your guide asks for your trust and tells you to cross at Point You while the other traveler and guide head down to a seemingly easier and faster route at Point Them. You decide to test the waters at Point You and you immediately stub the one toe that you stuck in the water.
This is a pattern in my own life that I had to work hard to break.
Over the last couple of weeks, we've discussed the importance of recognizing that perseverance is a choice. We must decide for ourselves whether or not the desired destination is worth the challenge and pains of overcoming obstacles on our journey. We also talked about trusting Jesus as our guide. How much will we continue to trust Him when we encounter those obstacles?
This week, let's talk about Point You versus Point Them. This is a pattern in my own life that I had to work hard to break. There were so many times that I was focused on the ease of someone else's journey that I lost sight of my desired destination. I was so consumed as to why they seemed to be getting where they wanted to go without obstacles, that I often questioned whether or not I chose the right path.
We wonder what it is about us that attracts obstacles rather than deters them.
We only have one pair of human eyes. It is impossible to keep them on our road at the same time that we have them on someone else's. That's both literally and figuratively speaking. How can we use the blessings that God gives us if we are constantly focused on others' blessings? It's difficult to be thankful for our gifts if we are constantly bemoaning the Lord about others.
It doesn't necessarily derive from a sense of jealously. We may just find it unfair. We sometimes begin to question our worth to God when we see someone else having an easier go at life. We wonder why our journey has been riddled with obstacles while theirs seems to be smooth sailing. We wonder what it is about us that attracts obstacles rather than deters them. We begin to internalize this sense of unfairness and unacceptability and it extends to other facets of our psyche and our lives.
Living vicariously through others must become a non-starter.
We can often benefit from watching others because we can learn from their wins and failures. We must remember though that it is exactly that...their wins and their failures, not ours. If we want to develop expertise and grow our faith, then we must have our own life experiences. We can't be so caught up on what's happening to others that we neglect to make things happen for ourselves. Living vicariously through others must become a non-starter. We have to live our own lives.
When we live for ourselves, and when we live the life that God has given us instead of focusing on what He has given to others, we realize that crossing at Point You is part of our path while crossing at Point Them is a part of theirs. We must trust that Jesus is our guide and is leading us on the correct path for what we are to accomplish. Unless we take that path, we will never know what He has in store for us. The obstacles we encounter will strengthen us and prepare us for the individual blessings that we are to receive.
Remember that God loves us all equally. Though the plans He has for us may differ, we are of equal worth to Him. His plans for us are different because He made us different, therefore His designs for our lives will not be the same. So when we stub our toe in the water, let's not lament it because our fellow travelers seem to be doing OK. Instead, let us stay focused on what God has for us and continue to move forward with Him as our guide.
So, let's continue using our story “One Toe In” to further discuss the decisions we make when we reach obstacles in our journey. Here's a brief recap:
You're heading towards a beautiful destination but are unsure how to get there. You were granted a guide to lead the way. You and your guide along with another traveler and guide approach a roaring river. Your guide asks for your trust and tells you to cross at Point You while the other traveler and guide head down to a seemingly easier and faster route at Point Them. You decide to test the waters at Point You and you immediately stub the one toe that you stuck in the water.
Jesus is our guide whether we accept his direction or just ignore Him.
Last week, we talked about choice and perseverance concluding that perseverance is a choice that we make. One thing that might effect our choice in this situation is the guide. We've already expressed disbelief in our guide when the guide told us to cross at Point You instead of Point Them. We were even more doubtful of our guide when our testing of the water led to a stubbed toe.
Do we continue to follow our guide's advice or do we assume that the guide is wrong because of the rough start to our journey? What about this mysterious guide you wonder? You've already supposed that like in real life, Jesus is our guide. He is our guide whether we accept his direction or just ignore Him. He is there whether we acknowledge Him and his life expertise or not.
Don't forget that before we stuck our toe in the water, Jesus told us to trust Him. Why would we then test the water instead of just getting in? It is hard sometimes to leap without looking but remember that without faith, it is impossible to please God. This means there are times we must trust His vision even when we don't see what He sees. We have to learn to always walk by faith and not by sight.
Our trust in Jesus depends greatly on how well we know Him.
Have you accepted His guidance? I know that I say I have but there are plenty of times when my actions do not reflect that. I hear Him telling me something but because it doesn't line up with my five physical senses or with my past experiences, I don't listen. I disregard His word and choose to proceed with my limited human understanding and vision.
Our trust in Jesus depends greatly on how well we know Him. If we look back on our lives and think about what He has done for us, the trust is easier. When we look back on our lives focusing only on the bad things we have gone through, then it will be harder for us to trust. Trust is not developed overnight. It takes time and patience. Fortunately for us, we have a faithful God who with mercy and grace, gives us a time to get to know Him.
Also remember that we were never promised perfect lives.
Also remember that we were never promised perfect lives. We were, however, promised God's presence in our lives and His help when we approach obstacles. Jesus, an innocent man, was crucified on the cross. We as humans, are not always so innocent. Knowing this, we should be patient and committed to overcoming obstacles, including the stubbing of one toe.
I pray that each one of us when faced with obstacles, will make the choice to follow Jesus and proceed towards our desired destination. If we are true believers, then what's on the other side of that river is worth a little pain to get there. So keep striving brothers and sisters. Trust Jesus as your Guide, tend to that stubbed toe and keep it moving.
So here we are, on this journey of a lifetime and we stub our toe as we test the treacherous waters that separate us from our destination. We've grown skeptical of our guide who asked for our trust as we compared our crossing point, Point Me with another traveler's crossing point at Point Them. Last week, I presented a series of questions regarding how we react when we reach obstacles on our journey.
Daunted by our first setback, many of us never put a toe in the water again.
There are so many things to consider, I almost don't know where to begin. I am going to start with choice and perseverance. Do you continue your journey once you've been discouraged by the stubbing of your toe? You've only put that one toe in and already there's a problem. Do you decide then and there that the whole journey is futile?
Many of us have been in this spiritual place. We begin to put forth the effort to achieve something better and immediately come across a problem. Daunted by our first setback, many of us never put a toe in the water again. We erroneously conclude that because we've had a problem, then the goal we were aiming towards isn't really meant for us and that the stubbing of our toe is proof of that.
We would rather remain comfortable even if remaining comfortable excludes progress.
The stubbing of our toe gives us permission to bow out. We convince ourselves that nothing we want should cause us pain. We would rather remain comfortable even if remaining comfortable excludes progress. Many folks who have accomplished great things will testify that it wasn't without struggle. They would say that at times the obstacles seemed insurmountable but they persevered anyway.
Most of us are taught early in life that anything truly worth having is worth working for; that the best things in life don't necessarily come easy. If we want to cross the river to get to that awesome destination, then we must be ready for whatever comes our way. We must tend to that toe and mentally and spiritually gird ourselves to continue our journey.
Maybe that stubbing of the toe was a gentle warning that we should be careful. Perhaps instead of thinking that the rest of our trip will be rife with problems, we should consider this gentle warning a blessing in disguise. We learn from the beginning of the journey what to watch out for and we become careful not to stub our toe again. We therefore, benefit from the pain of stubbing that toe. We can use that pain to prepare and strengthen us rather than allowing it to deter us.
We can never allow one mishap to keep us from moving forward
It is our choice. Do we complain and turn back or do we persevere? I don't know about you but when I'm truly in pursuit of a goal, I choose to persevere. Just because there was a rough start, that doesn't mean the whole journey will be difficult. We'll never know if we quit because of one stubbed toe.
Remaining focused on the reason for the journey can help us overcome the obstacles we may encounter. We have to encourage ourselves. We must learn to cheer ourselves on. We must always keep in mind the overall goal and keep pushing. We can never allow one mishap to keep us from moving forward. Perseverance is always a choice. What choice will you make?
Imagine there is an extraordinary place you wish to go. You've only heard about this amazing place from trusted others but it sounds like just the spot for you. Because you've never been, you don't know exactly how to get there. You've only been pointed to a path that those trusted others have assured you will lead to the desired destination.
Beginning the Journey
Fortunately, you were blessed with a guide to help you complete this unpredictable journey. The two of you encounter another traveler and guide who are also headed to the same mysterious place. Together, you all approach a rapid and dangerous river. Your guide tells you to cross the river at a point, let's say Point Me. The other guide tells their traveler to cross the river at Point Them.
You look down at the river and notice that Point Them looks like smooth sailing. It seems that the distance between the other side of the river and Point Them looks shorter and easier than at Point Me, the place your guide wants you to cross. You throw your guide a puzzling look. You are definitely questioning their judgment. Your guide responds with only two words: ”Trust me”.
An Obstacles Arises
The other traveler seems to be getting along well so you get antsy and decide to cross. You dip a toe in to test the waters and you stub it on a rock. You're only one toe in and you're already suffering an injury that could make the rest of your trip difficult.
What do you do? How do you react when you reach this obstacle? I'm sure you've figured out by now that this story is a metaphor for our spiritual journey. There is a myriad of choices we can make and a myriad of reasons why we make them. Over the next couple of weeks, I will use this story as a starting point to examine our decision making processes when our journey is hindered.
Questions To Ask Ourselves
In the meantime, here are a few questions I will be asking myself: Should I keep trying to cross at Point Me or should I try Point Them? Does my destination now seem less worth the journey? If so, should I give up on the trip altogether? Do I blame my guide for leading me across treacherous waters? Do I blame myself for trusting my guide?
Please take a few minutes to consider this scenario and to answer those questions. If any additional questions come to mind, by all means, please share them in the “Comments” section below. See you next week as we begin to dissect this story and to explore spiritual possibilities.
I want to help uplift, inspire and empower others and to help leave the world a little better than I found it. I am an author, deep thinker & optimist. I know God is love. I am the author of "Candidreams: I Remember the Beginning" and "Role Reversal: Turn Pain Into Power".
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Featuring original artwork by Ran H.