My mom says I was seven. We were part of a tiny house church. My mom decided that the Lutheran Church we had been attending was no longer meeting our family’s spiritual needs. She was invited by someone who went to this house church and so we visited and found it exactly what we needed. I rarely made friends with girls. Growing up, there was one across the street from my house, but she enjoyed the same things I did, exploring, playing in ditches and creeks, and climbing trees. So when we started going to this new church, my best friends quickly became Joshua and Timothy.
We were inseparable. Josh was a little older than me and Timothy was a year younger. My mom would go to Bible studies during the week and I was always in tow. The family that owned the house that the church was held in, also ran some sort of construction company. The garage and shed areas were a playground of building supplies and tools, which we were, of course, given strict instructions to stay away from. Once Bible study would get under way though, the three of us would sneak out the back door and find a way inside the restricted areas and explore.
The incident happened at Timothy’s 6th birthday party. We were playing on piles of lumber, running back and forth, balancing and hopping from one stack to the next. I remember very vividly chasing one of the boys, when I came to an abrupt halt. Never having shoes on (I know, big surprise), I had slid my foot right over a loose piece of wood and it wedged itself firmly into my skin. It was such a large piece and I was moving fast enough, that I actually had to lift my foot to break free from the lumber, leaving a good portion of it still in my skin.
Making the walk back to the house, getting injured doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, was not a new experience for me. It was one I had made before, and one I would make many more times. Ask my poor mom. This time, however, I was wobbling with one foot on the ground and the heel of the other foot trying to offer balance.
It may not have been hours, but it felt like it. I was propped up on the kitchen counter with my foot dangling over the sink, while every strong, able-bodied man tried desperately to dislodge the splinter. I screamed, they tugged, I cried, they yanked, and I squeezed my mom’s hand while they worked, but no one was able to pull it free, it wasn’t coming out.
I’m not sure who decided that I needed a break (probably my mom), but I remember laying down in their screened-in front porch, with my head on my mom’s lap and my feet propped up, when a woman that I had not seen before came walking in. She sat down at the end of the couch that I was laying on, and she just started to talk to me. She asked me questions about my family and my sisters. She talked about her life, her family, her job as a nurse. At some point, she asked if she could see the splinter that was causing me so much pain. I lifted my foot up and rested it on her lap and we continued to talk. After about 30 minutes of enjoying this woman’s company, she stood up and held in her hand the sliver. I’m not sure I even remember her tugging at it. She put me at ease with her sweet spirit and that, along with my mom stroking my hair, ended the trauma, and I could walk on both feet again.
Loss can be like that stubborn sliver. You can be running along in life when abruptly, something stops you. It can be so debilitating or paralyzing, that you literally stand still, maybe out of fear, shock or sadness. Well-meaning people will try to remove the splinter. This comes in so many forms. It can be the reminders that your loved one is in a better place (any place that’s not next to me is not where I want her). It can be the unstated pressure to either feel better or maybe take something (as if any pill will make me forget what I’ve lost). Or it can be the “encouragement” that once you hit the one year mark, things will start feeling better (or it might hurt more as the days, weeks and months without her, have now turned into years). I realize that all these people want to help and I truly appreciate it (really I do, this is in no way an indictment on anyone’s kindness), but there comes a point, maybe out of sheer exhaustion, when it’s time to just lay your head down and rest.
Can I tell you what happens?
The kindest, most patient Physician, will come to your side. He will begin to comfort you with His words. As you get to know Him better, He will hold your wound in His Hands, and over time, it will begin to heal. There will always be a scar and there will always be the memory of the trauma, but at some point you will lift your head and see the splinter in His Hands.
And you will get up. You will walk on both feet again, I promise, but only if you don’t rush the process. Don’t allow outside sources to give you a timeline. Rest your broken spirit and allow the Great Physician to begin His work.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3