I lost $5 today in an unfair bet regarding a Hi-C flavor. Following the release of “Ghostbusters”, Hi-C marketed the green-boxed orange-flavored drink, “Ecto-cooler”. I still hold that the drink was originally called the “Ecto-plasm-cooler”. But, Google and I have agreed to disagree. This drink was disgusting, yet it was the coveted food item in all of our metal lunch boxes. One day in first grade, I wasn’t feeling well, so, to calm my stomach, I had one of those huge, gas station pickles accompanied by the aforementioned Hi-C. Surprisingly, this did nothing to help me. I was sent to the nurse, who was apparently only certified to discover lice among elementary-aged kids. I told her I needed to go home. She took my temperature to figure out whether or not my stomach actually hurt and sent me back to my class. I walked in the door, saw Luke, the boy I had a crush on, and puked Ecto-plasm Hi-C and pickle all over the kid.
This ended my rendevouz with Hi-C.
And my trust in school nurses.
It’s funny what we do when we know we’re sick-- making it worse through what we eat, pushing ourselves when we should rest.
It’s even worse when we’re soul sick. We often have horrible ideas on how to fix what’s broken. We hide the problem or look to others to validate our pain. We keep going as if nothing is wrong or we use thermometers to prove our hearts aren’t injured. We want to walk it off or power through. We try to bandaid or medicate or numb ourselves till the feelings subside. But when we’re hurting, when we’re broken, these solutions just won’t work.
You can’t run when you’re nauseous. You can’t walk on a broken leg. No matter how much willpower you have, you can’t help but be weighed down by fatigue when you’re not well.
What, then, are we supposed to do? How do we fix soul injuries? What do we do when our hearts hurt and our spirits feel smashed?
Maybe we struggle because we make it our goal to fix ourselves. Maybe we’re stunted because we’re reaching for self-healing.
In a terribly broken time in my life, I was consumed with making sense of my pain. I knew there had to be some reason, something I was supposed to embrace, some transcendent purpose beyond my myopia. So, I made a check list-- all the things I needed to correct so that i could move on from the depressive time in my life. I figured if I fixed what was broken, there’d be no more reason to stay in the challenging season. I attempted self-surgery, removing what needed to be removed, ripping out the manifestations of sin and anxiety. But the sick cannot heal themselves any more than the branches can do their own pruning. I have no idea what I actually need on any given day. I don’t know what needs to be fixed, i don’t know what needs to be pruned.
Self-surgery only tears me up.
But the alternative is so frightening-- that we may be broken or wounded or sick and we can’t fix it, even through self-improvement. An improved character may be a result, but it certainly isn’t the goal of struggles.
Pain isn’t a problem to fix. Sickness isn’t an issue to cure. These heart-shattering moments are simply human reality.
But in the midst of them, we can focus on self-surgery or we can lean into knowing the God who is. God, beside us in surgery. God, deeply healing behind the scenes. God, teaching us who he is in sickness and in health. God, unbudging, unchanging in love and affection and devotion, sitting by our beds as we wait for the storm to end. God, holding us when he’s too big for us to hold on to him.
Put the scalpel down. Stop trying to fix what’s broken and let healing happen through deeper intimacy with God.
That’s the goal-- know God more today than you did yesterday. There’s a huge difference in embracing pain and embracing God.
If we power through without letting ourselves rest and receive healing, our pain will come out. We may not projectile vomit, but keeping it in is a time bomb. We’ll explode or erupt or roar or thrash even if no one ever sees it.
Rest. Lean. Go home from school, no matter what the nurse tells you. Don’t make it worse. Let God be God, and in faith and trust, sit there and let healing begin.