I took four years off after high school to try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And I spent most of the four years working minimum wage jobs doing everything from working in a meat packing plant (where I lasted one day and nearly decided to become a vegetarian) to working in a succession of clerical positions.
That last clerical position I held before going back to college was at a lawn and landscaping company. I worked there during the summer, and because the days were long and we were open from pre-dawn to just after dark, the other secretary and I had to split the hours between us. She – a native Panamanian who spoke fluent Spanish – worked from pre-dawn until early afternoon. And I – a gringa with four years of high school Spanish (making straight A’s does not make one fluent) – worked from mid-morning until dark. And using sign language, butchered Spanglish, and smiles, I translated for the late crews of Hispanic workers.
Honestly, the language barrier wasn’t much of a barrier. These young men liked me and were extremely respectful and protective of me. They would bring me fresh-picked fruit or flowers in the mornings. And once, pooled their money to take me to lunch. And once brought me a bright pink stuffed bunny, which now – funny enough – graces the console of my Daddy’s big ol’ pick-up truck. But then came the day – right before closing time – that Julio came in the back door with an urgent tone to his voice. The only part of what he said that I understood were the highly-accented English words, “string trimmer.” Then, he pulled his gloves off and all I saw was the blood. Our comptroller turned white and began to faint, then fled, telling me to take care of it. And I – with only basic first aid training and no practical experience – attempted to do that. I took Julio to the sink and with him gripping my shoulder (he left bruises) and gritting his teeth, I began to try to clean his wound.
The biggest problem with helping Julio wasn’t the language barrier. As his crew filtered into the room to watch, between him and them and my understanding of basic Spanish, I figured out that what had happened was that Julio had, much earlier in the day, caught his finger in the string trimmer. But wanting to keep on schedule and get all of his assignments done, he had simply put gloves on over the wound, and kept working. And so, by the time he got to me and we got to the sink, it was a bloody mess. And my biggest problem was that there was so much blood, sweat, and dirt, that I couldn’t see to figure out where to start to fix the problem. Eventually, once I’d gotten out as much dirt as I could, I simply had to bandage it as well as I could and give him instructions to keep it clean and come back to get it re-bandaged in the morning.
In his book, The Fire of Delayed Answers, Bob Sorge says, “When God brings distress, pain, affliction, and suffering into our lives, He does so for a purpose. He wants to enlarge our hearts. But our hearts are resistant to change. In order for the enlargement to be complete, the period of pain must be long enough in duration to complete the work. We don’t know how long that is, only God does.”
Can I just tell you that when you’re lying on the bottom of a pit, flat on your back, with your breath knocked out of you, it’s real hard to see to figure out where to start to fix the problem. And I suppose it’s also only right that I admit to you that that’s exactly the position I’ve been in lately. So, the further I got into this chapter, the more I wished that there was something beautiful or encouraging or uplifting that I could tell you right now instead of the truth.
Right now, my heart is pretty sore. I recognize that God is doing surgery on me, and yes, I also admit that I’m resistant to change. Change is scary. Even good change. And so I tried and tried to not change. But God, in His intimate and gentle and persistent persuasiveness, is ushering me yet further and further into change. And in the midst of it, I buckled and I broke and I fell to where I found myself lying on the bottom of the pit, flat on my back, out of breath, thinking, “God, is there any way that I can just not wake up tomorrow?” And God said no.
Right now, I feel like I’m looking at a dirty, bloody mess, not knowing where to start to fix the problem. The good news is that God knows where to start. And He knows who to send to help. And He knows how to give me the strength to keep getting up out of the dirt. And when I get back to where I can see the light, I’m going to have the heart that he wants me to have.
This post is part of a weekly book discussion that we are having on Bob Sorge’s book, The Fire of Delayed Answers. You don’t have to read the book to stick around and chat! But if you have written a response to this week’s chapter, please feel free to link it up at the widget, then go by my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen’s place, and see what he has to say.