Thursday, April 09, 2009

A lesson from warts, for Maundy Thursday

I have a wart on my finger. It's been there for a year or so. A couple times I've tried to get rid of it using homeopathic home remedy stuff. But none of that worked. So two weeks ago I visited Dr. Schmidt and asked him to please help me rid myself of this pest.

He applied the cold stuff, it scabbed up, and yesterday, when I went back for my follow-up, he was amazed at how much better it all looked. Although, I had to have another treatment, and it will still take awhile for it to be gone.

But I was struck by his explanation of a wart, and how we get rid of them. Turns out, a wart is a little self-contained unit sitting between the skin (although they tend to break out through the skin) and the body's innards. (medical professionals will have to excuse my lay-person's explanation here).

To get rid of the wart, Dr. Schmidt said, we freeze it, which causes the cells of the wart to break down, which then allows the body's immune system to get into the wart, thus healing the body from the inside out. The treatment doesn't heal the wart, the treatment simply creates the right conditions for the body to heal itself.

A few days later, I had a conversation with a person struggling with a hardened heart. This person had known their share of woundings, of failed trust, of brokenness. This person had put their trust out there a number of times, only to be crushed every time. They were having a difficult time learning to trust, learning to hope, learning to live in the belief that All will be made Well in Christ.

I was reminded of a poem I wrote many, many years ago. Just a little ditty, I think I wrote more for the rhyme scheme than for the deeper meaning. And yet. . .it's become almost prophetic.

I built a wall around my heart
inside of which to hide;
outwardly I never hurt,
but inwardly I died.

I find, in many ways, this becomes the theme verse of my life, and my life's work is seeking to undo that wall, to allow Life to flow back in. Truthfully, it's only natural. We're all created with defense mechanisms that help us negotiate a dangerous world. But those same defense mechanisms often leave us cold, lonely, mistrusting. We were created to live in a web of relationships with God and others, but over time we've learned that relationships hurt; the more hurt we feel, the more we close ourselves off from others, the more we learn that trusting isn't safe. We reach the point where we no longer hurt outside, but inside is another story. Our souls lay dying and dormant inside these fortresses we have created. We long to reach out, but we know that reaching out will only lead to more pain and sorrow. And the tension is unbearable.

Enter in the wart. Like the wart, I believe our hearts/souls become these self-contained little units, impenetrable, unhealed, broken, causes of pain and suffering. They have closed themselves off, and thus cannot be healed. Many try so many forms of self-medication, but in the end, nothing can break through, nothing can bring fresh, healing blood into that place.

The key, though, lies not in finding the medication that will heal. The key comes in breaking up that shell, and allowing the healing to take care of itself. We who are in Christ have the healing power of His Spirit dwelling in us. The cure for the Problem is already there, ready to do its job; the key is simply letting it.

Look at it this way: I can try to 'manufacture' my healing; I can look at my finger and say "You shouldn't have a wart! Get Better!" but that will never work. Other people can come along and say "That's gross. You shouldn't have that wart." But it won't go away. Even now, there's nothing I can do to heal the wart. The works been done. I just have to let the body do its thing. About all I can do is apply a little ointment to help speed up the process.

I recognize now that this is the answer to the heart problem. I can't tear down those walls, I can't just tell myself to get better. None of us can wake up one day and say "Well, that's over, so let's just pick ourselves up and be healed." It's not in our power. (note: this is why it's not helpful for the rest of us to say to each other, 'You just need to learn to trust more.')

It's not about us!

It's about letting the Spirit of God do what the Spirit of God does - flood into broken spaces with healing.

It's about creating conditions that open up the door for the Spirit to work. It's about breaking up the walls of that shell, in order that the Spirit can enter in and destroy the evil cells, renewing and healing the good, healthy cells.

Which means it's mostly out of our hands. Yes, I had to go visit Dr. Schmidt to begin the process. In the same way, we need to go to God, the Heavenly Physician, and show him the problem. And tell him "I've tried to heal this thing, but it won't go away." And let him start the process.

I also have to do a little work, putting on ointment every night. In the same way, it helps if we do our part - spending time in God's word, spending time in prayer, sharing time with fellow Christ-followers. There are nights I'd rather go to bed and not have to deal with the ointment, the bandaids, the time it takes. But I do it because I know it helps. . . a little. So, too, taking the steps to walk toward spiritual healing isn't always easy, it's not always something we want to do; but if we choose to, it certainly helps.

And here's the thing - I doubt I'll know the moment the wart is gone. One day I'll simply look and say "Wow! I'm healed!" In the same way, this heart-healing process happens whether we're paying attention or not. The Spirit is quiet that way, doing His work behind the scenes, under the skin, a little bit at a time. And one day, I believe, we wake up to the sunshine around us, to the wind in the trees, to a smile in our hearts, and we say, "Wow! I think I'm healed!"

Tonight, Maundy Thursday, and tomorrow and Saturday and Easter Sunday all prove that God isn't about big shows and fantabulous special effects. The Kingdom of God is like yeast, like a mustard seed, like a man stooping to wash a few friends' feet, like a man rising from the dead when nobody's around to be amazed by it, like the wind of the Spirit that comes and goes as it pleases, like the immune system of the body, doing its work silently and effectively even when we don't notice.

All that's left for us is to say "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner," and "Lord, heal me, a broken and contrite heart."All that's left is for us to come to the table and receive his Body and Blood once again. And then, even though it's scary, even though it hurts. . .then, we trust.


Ann said...

A memorable analogy, Dan, and one which reminds us that we can't close ourselves off from one another, w/out closing ourselves off from God, too. Thanks for another terrific post!

rebecca said...

Hi Dan, This one is a sermon. Hold on to it.

The children in India broke those walls for me. How do those kids who have suffered their whole lives retain the ability to trust a stranger? And what is in our culture that causes us to shut our doors? Maybe just because we can and they have no doors to shut.

Beth B said...

Thanks, Dan. I'm keeping this one for continuing reference.