I grew up with the BEST backyard. For a city kid, anyways! Our house was the last on a dead-end street, so our modest-sized yard was extended on two sides by forest and cow pasture. We spent our sunny days outside, running around barefoot riding hockey-stick horses and building tree forts with my dad’s leftover lumber. Our yard was split into two levels, the bottom being a soggy mess of moss, and the top containing a sturdy playhouse (complete with slide!) built by my dad. There was a landscaped stairway between the levels built out of rough wood and filled with gravel, and it is there this lesson begins.
One typical dry day I raced around the yard in my bare feet, chasing adventure and my sisters. Unfortunately, as I climbed the stairs in the middle of the yard I did not exercise as much caution as I should have. Pain! Into my tender foot a large sliver lodged itself. Taking a peek at my sole, I was astonished at its length: it must have been a full 2 inches! As a second grader, my foot couldn’t have been much more than 5 inches long itself. That thing was a MONSTER.
As every kid knows, getting slivers removed is the absolute worst. The poking, the prodding, the lectures…I wouldn’t stand for it. There was absolutely no way I was going to subject myself to that! So instead, I ignored it. I told nobody, and went on with life. I didn’t acknowledge the growing pain that nagged at me with every step, choosing instead to stick with my original decision to move on.
Two days later my teacher pulled me aside as I limped into the classroom after recess.
“Laura, are you limping? What’s the matter?”
Overcome by the pain, I finally broke. “I have a sliver! It’s really big…”
“Let me see, let’s take off your shoe. Oh my! That is quite the sliver! It looks infected, we need to get that out.”
Noooooooooo!!!! She supported my arm and helped me hop up to the principles office. We took the elevator (!). As the office staff gathered around me on the sick bed and the principle used the tweezers to gently remove the offensive sliver from my foot, it came to light that I had let it fester for a number of days. As adults tend to do, they looked at me incredulously and asked the question:
“Why? Why didn’t you tell somebody? If we had dealt with it right away you could have avoided all this pain!”
And as often is the case with retrospect, my reasoning seemed pretty dumb.
Object: Monster Sliver
Lesson: Grace is relief, freely given, but can’t be offered without an admission. You let the pain fester because you’re afraid and stubborn and don’t want to deal with the clean up of your mistakes. You don’t want to admit you’ve been wrong. But the limp and shifty eyes give you away, and before long God WILL get through your stubborn shell and show you how silly you’ve been. He’ll clean your wound, put you back on your feet, and give you a candy from the jar along with a gentle reminder that taking the sliver out really isn’t as painful as leaving it in.
A big thank-you to my second grade teacher and elementary principle, who are still teaching me life lessons.