A few months ago I was working with a ministry in Haiti (heartlineministries.org). Among the several things we were working on was the construction of wooden trusses for a roof. We had a stack of rough-cut lumber we were measuring and cutting to form the trusses. It was good sweaty work. Which is generally the only kind of work there is in Haiti.
As I was handing up pieces of lumber to the crew on the roof I felt a sharp stab in the meaty flesh of my thumb. Inspecting my hand I discovered a sizeable spear of wood rammed into my previously unmarked flesh. This evil intruder had wriggled deep into the base of where my thumb met my palm. In a clumsy effort to remove it, I instead sent it burrowing deeper. Not wanting to slow construction down, I sucked up the pain and discomfort and returned to handing up sections of truss.
Soon the stabbing pain morphed into a steady dull ache. If I really focused on the tasks of measuring, cutting and carrying lumber I could forget the pain and ache for a time. But it never left entirely. Minutes might pass, but eventually I would grasp something that would force the jagged splinter against a fresh nerve ending—reminding me anew of the pain I was working to forget and move beyond. I worked like this the remainder of the day. Dull ache, sharp pain, work, work, work.
Disappointment is so often like that injurious wooden shard. Sharply painful at first, then if left unattended, it grows into a dull ache. A steady reminder of a hurt that has never been fully addressed.
Recently I sat down for coffee with a good friend of mine. He is a wonderful man, a good Husband, Father and friend. He shepherds a thriving small group and has been actively involved in the life of our church for years. By most surface measurements he is joyful and content with his life. Yet he wrestles deeply with the disappointment of loosing his job. It has been many months since he was laid off as the result of inner-office politicking and backstabbing. I feel the sadness, anger and disappointment flow off of him as he recounts his painful season of unemployment. His initial disappointment with the treatment he received from his previous co-workers has never been fully addressed. He has taken the traditional “manly” approach—suck it up, push the feelings aside, and soldier on. Like me working wood in Haiti, he has not taken the time to stop and address the splinter of his disappointment.
After a day of working hard under the heavy sun of Port-au-Prince, and of ignoring the throbbing pain in my hand I sat down and began the painful process of removing the jagged slice of wood. When I peeled off the work gloves I had put on to avoid additional splinters, I was taken aback at the fiery red infection that had begun to set in. My choice to “push through the pain” rather than properly remove the sliver at the time it happened only guaranteed more pain and a longer recovery now. That annoying piece of wood was never going to kill me. Putting off dealing with it though meant I would be less efficient and less effective the next day. I couldn’t control getting the splinter, but my choices afterwards ensured that the road to health would be longer and more painful.
What has disappointed you recently? Have you taken the time and energy to address that hurt? Or have you (like I so often do) leaned away from the pain and attempted to muster through it. My guess is that the sliver of disappointment is still there. It has been left unattended. You have created “work arounds” that protect you from the initial sharp pain, but leave you with a steady dull ache. Stop. Take the time to fully address the hurt. Left unattended, slivers of disappointment lead to the infection of bitterness, regret and hopelessness. Pulling the sliver out is painful and takes time, but there is healing and freedom on the other side.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again . . . Galatians 5:1
Dear Father lead me through the pain of my disappointment. Help me to forgive those that have wounded me and to move forward in freedom. Amen