My younger brother was always more athletic than I, but I never truly accepted that fact until the winter Olympics of 1988. Back in 1988, one of the most exciting events was speed skating (looks like it’s headed that way again in 2010, by the way).
We lived in a house with wooden floors then, and my mother kept them clean and polished. She would always tell us to be careful, because they could get pretty slick. Barefoot, it was no problem, but with socks you could lose your traction. My brother saw this as more of a feature than anything else. He recognized the potential for a rink, and thus began his experiments with inertia.
He made it look easy. He would take a running start from our room, grab the door post as he swung out, sliding in a half oval down the hallway, and end up in the adjacent guest room. It was cool. I don’t say that just because I was 7… you would think it was cool if you saw it now.
I watched him 2 or 3 times before the thought occurred: “I can do this.” I put on some socks, and even had him give me a final demonstration to make sure I was clear on the mechanics. My running start went very well, but the thing about inertia is that it’s a real problem if you don’t manage it. My speed stayed up… my direction did not. By the time I’d picked myself up off the floor, one tooth had cut entirely through my upper lip, and I was pouring blood out of my mouth.
My Dad was out working on the car while all of this was going on. Both of my parents had told me not to run on that floor, and now there was blood all over. I couldn’t keep it from dripping through my fingers. Mom had just cleaned. I had no interest in her finding the floor that way. I wasn’t crying, because it didn’t really hurt, and I couldn’t see my own face, so I didn’t know how bad it was. My idea was to ask Dad if we had any band-aids. Once I stopped the bleeding, I was going to clean up the floor before anyone saw the mess. It was the perfect plan.
Now, my father is a very smart man. That doesn’t always come out to everyone, but it’s true. He’s smart in mathematics, physics, and radar engineering. One of his best qualities, though, is that he reacts intelligently in an emergency. He stays calm, and has a good idea about how to keep other people that way. So I know that when I asked whether we had any band-aids, he knew that a band-aid wasn’t going to cut it. He also knows me very well… he is my Dad, after all. He took a look at my mouth and told me that we needed to show Mom when she got home.
I forgot to mention that my Mom was out grocery shopping at the time. If Mom had been home, none of this would have ever happened in the first place. That mommy sixth sense of hers would have been tripped before my brother even put on the first sock. It must have been tingling anyway, because she was home within minutes of my accident (for those who don’t realize it, this was before cell phones, so we couldn’t call her). In the few seconds it took my Mom to figure out what was going on and to look at my mouth, she also knew a band-aid wasn’t going to fix this. Unfortunately, her knowledge about me was temporarily overridden by her motherly care, and she blurted out the truth: “that’s going to need stitches.” This was not what I wanted to hear.
In that moment, I transformed from a very calm little boy who was bleeding profusely out of his mouth to a very terrified one bent on avoiding the hospital. Someone sewing my skin shut was not in my game plan, and I let everyone know it. Minutes later, my poor parents were experiencing the horror of trying to get me into the car. I refused, and physically resisted every effort they made. In the process, our entire neighborhood got to spend that Saturday morning hearing my screams that my parents were trying to kill me. At one point I landed a fist into my Mom’s throat as I was flailing around and trying to get loose. Before it was over, my Dad was vocally considering tying me up with a rope, and he wasn’t kidding.
It wasn’t much better when we arrived at the hospital. I was outnumbered by my parents and doctors, but had no intention of giving up. I had my hands clamped over my mouth and felt like I could keep that up indefinitely. In retrospect, I think I probably terrified other children at the hospital that day, what with the insane look on my face and blood dripping out through my hands. In the end, they managed to pry my fingers back and confirm the need for stitches.
I remember very specifically one of the orderlies asking me whether I was going to do this “like a big boy” or whether they were going to have to “strap me down.” At 7 years old, I said: “you better strap me down.”
In the end, they sewed up my lip, but it was a lot harder than it had to be. My parents even made me go back and apologize to the doctors for my behavior.
I was just so afraid of those stitches. I didn’t like needles. I was scared of the pain.
It was clear to everyone but me that I needed them though. It’s hard to believe that I actually wanted to use a band-aid. I was so busy protecting myself that I didn’t have time to look in the mirror and see how bad it was. I was terrified.
The doctors knew what they were doing, though. They knew that even as the needle and thread pierced my flesh, it would also bind. It would put my body in a state of healing. The pain was minimal, but it would truly stop the bleeding — the way a band-aid never could. Though I resisted and fought with every ounce of my strength, they did what was best for me.
How often does this happen in our spiritual lives? The wound is there. We cannot stop the bleeding. We desperately want to cover it all up before anyone can see. We fear the pain of legitimate treatment to the point that we’re willing to accept the superficial. We are terrified.
But the God of all creation has the solution. The psalmist wrote: He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
I still bear the scar today from my experience in the ER. If I hadn’t struggled so much, I might not still have a fat upper lip on one side.
Our God is the master Healer, though. When He binds up, there is no scar. When He treats, there is no trace of infirmity. When He is finished, we are just as good as when He created us.
Every now and then, I still trip and fall. Even today, I nearly knocked over a girl as I was coming out of a restaurant. So it is with my spirit. I make mistakes; I stray from God’s will. I am encouraged to know that when I am bruised and broken, the Lord is gracious to me and will heal me if I am willing.
I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d been allowed to try band-aids as I wished, or if I’d been left to continue bleeding. The wound could have become infected and festered; I might even have died. May we never be so afraid of the treatment that we remain bleeding and broken. The master Healer is always ready to treat us, if we will trust Him long enough to work.