Last week, our son had a bad infection that started with a rash we thought was chicken pox. It was a long and painful week for him and for us. The spot was harboring a staph infection. It hurt on his stomach, but it affected his whole system—fever, irritability, sleeplessness, over all misery. He practiced using the word “no” a lot. He was not happy with anything—it is like he couldn’t see straight.
Each day, the infection looked worse and seemed to grow in strength. The treatment included powerful antibiotics and warm compresses and warm baths to draw the infection out to the point where we could drain it. With each bath (at least 4 a day), we could see progress in the healing process. Ironically in the healing process, things get and look much worse before they are complete. We would take the opportunity to drain the infection as much as we could after each bath. This was not a pleasant process for Jack or us. He didn’t understand, but we did. We knew that an infection can kill and that this momentary pain was the only way to healing. So, we sucked up our hearts and reminded ourselves of the process and inflicted some pain to get to healing because of our deep love for him.
The doctor got to inflict the most pain. She got angry icy stares from Jack after the blood curdling screams subsided. After 5 days of this process, the last doctor drained the spot completely. This saved Jack and his momma from a weekend at children’s hospital. Fifteen minutes of dire pain to bring healing rather than exposing him to other infections in the hospital, sleepless nights and more pain. We would take that prescription. As parents, we never want our children to experience that pain. Our hearts break in two. However, as I was dressing Jack and the doc was giving us instructions I told Jack… “unfortunately son, going through deep pain is one of the only ways we experience healing and growth in life.”
See, I know this will be minimal pain in comparison to the growth in Jack’s life to come. Many trials will occur and he will learn lessons about wisdom and character and what happens when people sin against us and we sin against others. There will be painful times blossoming into adolescence from childhood and from adolescence to adulthood. I want him to be fully formed and to not stop just because something is painful and uncomfortable. All these things his daddy and I have learned through struggle and pain in our lives. (We continue to learn.)
It is amazing how fast little Jack’s stomach healed once the infection was completely drained. The next morning, the once purple and red bruised and protruding place flattened and a scab had formed. By the next morning, the color had all but faded and the skin was forming anew. Miraculous. Two hours after the painful draining took place, he was running and playing with his old energy. “No” was no longer his favorite word. He no longer winced when we picked him up or touched his stomach to change his diaper. Laughter replaced the tears that had flowed.
In texting people prayer requests for the little buddy this week, my friend, Cindy, said, “there’s a lot of spiritual metaphor there to learn from in this.” Our abscesses that we do not want anyone to touch…the places of sinful infection that we keep feeding that affect our mood and sight and our whole system. We feel the pain that touching them brings, and we, like the toddler, think that leaving them alone is the best prescription because pricking them brings too much pain. When the truth is, they are killing us and taking us over…affecting our judgment and relationships and our very life. John Owen, the great Puritan writer, wrote, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” What a picture of this truth. I can think of times where I have been very prickly when people have tried to address my abscesses—my pride, my people pleasing, my idolatry. I have slapped them back or turned away thinking I have the best plan to care for myself when the sin infection is eating me alive and poisoning my system.
I began to think about what Cindy said. Thinking about the process we went through with Jack. Those warm baths are like the Truth of God’s word; they bring to light and to a head the infection. The truth points out the difference between healthy ways and infectious thoughts and attitudes. I see how I am different from God and how that is hurting me ultimately leading me to death. Then, with each bath, exposure to his truth and his love, there is a slow draining…painful but leading to life and freedom. Each time, looking at the infection of sin, it is scary to tackle it and to know that pain will come. However, the more I am bathing in God’s word, the more I know this is the healthy way to healing. The More I remember the Truth that it is safe in Him to look at these places because Jesus has paid the price for them and allowed for their healing, the more I know I have to push deeper. Then, pushing to the deepest pain, because I have treasured this infection so long and protected it, I am exposed to truth and love again to purge myself completely as the Great Physician extracts the last bit of infection. Soon after, there is a peace, a freedom, a renewed vision and joy. The pain, however long, was worth it to get to this healing.
There will be other infections, but hopefully I remember the process in this one and remember that the Great Physician has the deepest love for me to grow and be free. Sometimes there are residual infections, but I know He is with me working for my good—my becoming more like Him. We never seek these, but we see His deep love and good in the process of coming out of them.
Now, I ask (myself) you, what places of pain and infection have you been protecting that need the deep healing of the Great Physician? Will you bath in the Truth of God’s word and presence and be brave to look at the infection for what it is and what it really needs? Who will you ask to help you in this process? Will you remember that through deep pain healing and growth come? Will you be brave in the power of Jesus?