I grew up in a corner house.
Now, this meant a lot of things for me as a child. Things a normal adult human might not think of.
For example, this meant that our cardio-minded neighbors spotted us during our sunrise kickboxing sessions atop our trampoline, as we were accustomed to doing after spending the night upon its springy goodness – usually with sleeping bags over our heads to make it interesting.
It also meant that local pedestrians were able to gaze with great ease upon the wasteland of a backyard my brother and I created after we spread the leveling sand from our broken above-ground pool throughout the entire yard to make our very own white trash mini-golf course.
But most importantly it meant that we had additional sidewalk for all of the antics our little homeschool minds could conjure – which usually involved ramps built with logs and rotting plywood, or strapping wheels to items that should never roll.
One such encounter of said conjuring occurred when I was the wise and discerning age of about 9 years of age; the pinnacle of cognitive development in a boy’s life.
Some friends were over using our magnificent trampoline as they were accustomed to doing, and I decided that this was my moment to really impress them. So I grabbed my off-brand Transformers BMX-wannabe bike, and headed to the front of the house. As I sped down the side of our house approaching the backyard, I took my hands off the handlebars. Just as my bouncing-buddies came into view, I shouted proudly, “Look guys – no hands!”
Somehow the fact that the gate to our fence was wide open had escaped my otherwise thorough calculations.
Blinded to my impending doom by the allure of impressing my trampoline-loving friends, I crashed into our old metal gate harder than Pauley Shore’s career. My left arms went through the chain-link, hurling me from my gloriously heroic bicycle, brutally dragging me along the concrete in a perfect half circle of doom.
As I tried to assess the situation, it became painfully clear that I had tore up my knee pretty badly. I’d like to think my reaction to this realization was stoic and valiant, but I’m sure I cried like a tweenie at a Bieber show. Judge me if you must.
Spellbound at my newly acquired flesh wound, I stared intently at many colors of blood as it poured from my leg until my mother, hearing the screams from our now entertained yet terrified guests, ran to my aid.
Being the loving, caring, and intuitive mother she was and is, my mother immediately brought me inside to clear the debris from my leg. Once we concluded that torture session, she brought a tube of some sorts up from the basement. “This will help keep the scab from becoming too hard”, she said. “It will make life a lot easier when we need to change the gauze.”
I’m convinced now that what my mother brought to me that day was not, in fact, a tube filled with the dreams and rainbows I was promised, but instead was a mislabeled canister of rubber cement mixed with concrete powder. I say this not to assert that my mother had always secretly hoped I would one day be immobile and stop breaking things around the house, but because just a mere twenty-four hours after this “magical” gloop was applied, my wound was as indurated as Dick Van Dyke’s jawline – and it was getting worse.
By the time a week had passed and it was time to change the bandage, my family was using this rocklike wound to open beer cans and bust down castle doors. It was bad. And there I sat, seven days from that infamous event, sitting terrified in the tub with the hopes that a good soaking would make the unwrapping process a little less painful. Once again, my calculations were just a hair off.
After a quick word of inspiration from my father, my mother then slowly peeled away layer one of thirteen away from my grotesque mummy of a kneecap. I gripped the side of the tub like it was a bobsled and shrieked as if someone had stabbed me in the spleen or forced me to watch “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.”
Picking up on the subtly of my discomfort, my mother grabbed a pair of scissors and cut all remaining 12 layers of the gauze on either side of my table-top scab. “This way we can take each layer off a little more easily” she said lovingly. “It will be a lot less trouble.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that my wise and loving mother was there, helping me along. I sat back, feeling much calmer now, working up the courage to give my mom the go-ahead with layer number twelve. However, as I looked off in the distance trying to muster all the boldness my little nine year-old mind could manage, my mother summoned the strength and speed of ten ninjas and quickly ripped off all 12 remaining tiers of wound-protecting cloth in one fell swoop.
I won’t even bother to explain to you my reaction – I’m sure your imagination has already pieced that together. I would simply start with the image of a banshee receiving a root canal and go from there. Not my proudest moment as an aspiring stuntman, that’s for sure.
I was thinking about this story yesterday and drew all of these connections to the years that followed this event. Countless moments where life was painful, embarrassing, or difficult and I wanted to take my sweet time unwrapping the bandage – cringing and squirming at each layer. And then someone or something comes along and rips off all 12 crippling layers and says, “It’s time to let this breathe.”
I’m so rarely ready for those moments. I think few of us ever are. Our lists grows longer and longer of the things we’d like to have “under our belt” before we make this decision or take that risk. We cling to the bandage of familiarity, even if that familiarity is steeped in pain and bitterness. We see the wounds, the memory is still very fresh in our minds, but we’re just not quite ready to take the necessary steps toward healing.
Often I think we desperately need those people in our life that are willing to rip the gauze from our skin when we ourselves perpetually assert that, “We’re not ready.”
The truth is, often we truly aren’t ready, but the greater reality is that we’ll never actually be completely prepared. “When I get this degree, make this much money, meet this person, or feel this feeling” are benchmarks that simply may never come. When we tether ourselves to a ideal that we’ve created, we often end up crippling ourselves – creating a paradigm that rests on the assuredness of our abilities instead of the provisions of a great and loving God. We place the crown upon our own heads and bemoan the kingdom.
If we are always waiting to feel ready, we may one day awake old men and women, crushed with the realization that “ready” never came. We will realize that the wrongs we have done and the wrongs done to us have identified us more than Christ. We will se bandages that needed to be removed long ago, keeping the wounds from the life giving air around us.
I for one need to be reminded that these wounds aren’t permanent, that the breathe of the Spirit brings deep healing, and that I am to boast in my weakness as it brings greater glory to the goodness of God.
May we be a people that do not simply amble recklessly throughout our lives, trying desperately to impress those in the backyards of our lives, but embrace an audacity that clings to the promises of God – even when we feel anything but ready.
Here’s to living sacrificially, loving unconditionally, and serving radically with all that we are.