Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
I cut myself shaving this morning.
It was my own fault. I had stayed up far too late the night before doing laundry, so that I would have clothes to wear to church today. I ought to have done that earlier in the day, but I didn’t. I had to wake up earlier than usual as I was visiting a new church with some extremely close friends, a newlywed couple who are searching for a church for them.
I also hadn’t shaved in a week. I ought to have done that before, but I didn’t. So I woke up rather more tired than usual, earlier than usual, and proceeded to bumble my way through the morning routines. I stared at my face in the mirror and thought, “You’re much more likely to cut yourself this morning, because you’re in a hurry and you’re tired. So be careful and take your time.”
I then immediately ignored that advice.
And I of course cut myself. I didn’t feel it, and I didn’t notice it. I hurriedly threw on some clothes and noticed some blood right under my nose. It looked like a bloody nose, so I grabbed some tissues, applied pressure, and ran out the door to the truck, hoping that the tissue would stop the blood flow and not ruin my shirt.
I got to my friends’s house, from where we would all go together in their car, and had time to examine the problem in their bathroom mirror. It was no bloody nose; it was a cut. A deep one, and definitely from a razor. Also, most definitely in an area on my face that I simply couldn’t get any type of bandage on it to help. It continued to bleed the entire half-hour ride to church.
The whole ride to church, and half of the morning there, I was focused primarily on making sure that there wasn’t a stream of blood flowing down my face and onto my shirt. Now that I was aware of the cut, I was most accutely aware of it. I thought what an idiot I must look to all these people. I thought how absurd I was to not have been more careful.
Oh, for a do-over at the bathroom mirror this morning!
Somewhere around the end of the worship time and the collecting of tithes and offerings, I realized that I hadn’t lifted a tissue to my face in a minute or two. I gently dabbed a clean tissue to the cut, and it came back without blood dampening it. Finally, my platelets had done their job and stopped the open flow! I rejoiced silently in the little victory.
Then, as I looked around the room, I realized how much I had been missing for the last two hours of my life. I hadn’t really been giving my friends much attention at all because I was too absorbed in my own problem. I hadn’t bothered to look around the room enough to realize that I actually knew quite a few people at this church. I quietly reflected on this new perspective, and wondered when the last time I had ever paid so much attention to the section of skin just under my right-side nostril before.
Probably the last time I cut it shaving.
Not fifteen minutes later, the pastor talked about the C.S. Lewis-inspired idea of pain being something that God uses to get our attention. In our bodies, pain lets us know that something is wrong in a certain area. Likewise, the pastor said, emotional pain helps us to realize that there’s an area in which things could be so much better. An area that we probably wouldn’t have noticed unless there had been pain.
As always, there were parts of the sermon that I discerned as bones, and parts that I discerned as meat. In one of my father’s oft-used expressions, I chewed the meat and spit out the bones. But I really was kind of sold on the model [side note: my dad also often says that all models are ultimately wrong or insufficient, but some models can be useful for a season] of pain calling attention to areas or problems in which I may not have paid any attention to otherwise.
Like the skin under my right-side nostril.
I now wonder what else in life I’m missing when I focus everything on such pain. Quite a bit, I probably think. Perhaps more than I’ll ever realize.
So tonight my prayer is for the Spirit of the Living God to help me recognize what areas the pain is calling out for me to notice. To then have wisdom, given by Papa, to know what to do about it. And especially to help give me a wider, broader perspective in those circumstances. I don’t want to miss opportunities to be bigger, broader than myself – to in all humility consider others before myself. Not to my neglect, but to my credit. And not even my credit, but instead to the credit of the Sovereign Lord who transforms me from the inside out.
In a way, I’m kind of glad I cut myself this morning. It drew my attention to far more than a tiny cut on my face. It drew my attention to an invitation from Papa to go deeper.