Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Breath of Kindness

We were standing in line at the checkout today.  The store was so crowded and there were people milling around.  One store employee had asked me if she could help me and I said no, we had found what we wanted.  As she turned away a tidal wave of her fragrance smacked me in the face.  I had my mouth open and everything!  I coughed and sputtered, groped for my ever-present tissue in order to filter some of it out so I wouldn't get a headache; already my eyes were stinging.  There was her perfume, stale sweat, and the cloying acrid taste of ash coming off her.  It was sickening.  Even hubby noticed it.

We started talking about how scents in general are so powerful not just physically but also emotionally.  How certain odors evoke childhood memories.  That's when he hit me with something I wasn't expecting.  When he smelled that lady's perfume in combination with cigarette ash/smoke and so forth, he had an overwhelming reaction inside: revulsion, anger, and an overpowering desire to just leave.  I looked at him quizzically.  "She smelled just like ___," he said, mentioning someone in his past that had made his life a living hell on earth.  Those feelings were not directed so much at this lady but at someone else - someone who is long gone but who still haunts his memories with her dysfunctional and destructive antics.  

Then he described the process of healing in his life like his heart, his spirit had been hardened into this rocky mass of stone by the experiences he had when he was a child.  He grew this massive shell which hardened him on the outside and it turned the inside to stone, so that he was unable to feel anything.  When God started to soften him inside, it was like pieces of rock started to shift along fault lines.  It was up to him to dig them out of his life, but they were still too hard for him to deal with them.  So he would dig them out and then give them to God, asking Him to grind them to dust, because there was no way he had the strength to render these things powerless in his life.  He would then trust God to remove those things or grind them to powder, and blow them away with a breath of kindness.

Ever since that conversation, I have been thinking about a guy we heard speak at a businessmen's luncheon one time a long time ago.  He had been a search and rescue worker.  One time while parachuting in to a rock face to do a rescue, the chute didn't open in time, and he fell over 40 feet and landed on his feet.  He broke every bone in both feet, shattered the bones in his lower legs, and basically looked like one of those cartoon characters whose bottom half turns into a pancake.  The doctors told him that he would never walk again.  Over the course of the next year or so, he worked hard and prayed harder, and God brought him to the place where he could not only walk again, but go back to the work he loved: search and rescue.  

Then he said and did something that has never left me.  He said, "That was ten years ago. But to this day, the effects of that day still come to the surface - quite literally.  I'm constantly pulling pieces of that rock face out of my body, and I never know where they'll come out."  He lifted his pant leg and put his foot up on a chair.  To our amazement, there, half-embedded and half-protruding from his calf, was a pebble about three-quarters of an inch in diameter (for those in the metric system, that's 2 cm).  The sight of it was both enthralling and obscene, like something that didn't belong - and yet it was miraculous that it found its way out of his body to be eventually discarded.  Truly a powerful reminder of that day, and of how far he had come.

There will always be more pebbles.  Always.  And nothing we can do can change how many of them there are, or how long they'll take to come out.  All we can do is ask God to bring them to the surface when we are ready to face them, and they will come.  Once they do, He will choose the rate at which they come out, and then we wait until it's time to remove them.

Removing them is painful.  It is; there is no denying it.  But those things don't belong there; we know they don't.  And they only hinder us from being all God wants us to be: joyous and free.  If we have truly made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to His care, then He will give us the strength to dig them out.   

We dig them out, and then give them right back to the only One who can crush them to dust - and blow them away. 

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