Mere Christianity: Splinters

I don’t know this little guy’s name, but he was one of our patients in Trojes, Honduras in 2004 and he taught me a valuable lesson. He came into our clinic a couple of weeks after he had fallen. Of course, we hadn’t been there when he’d fallen and his family couldn’t afford to go to a doctor, so they did all they could do: nothing. Then, they heard we were in town.

When Dr. Lewis (the older gentleman on the left with glasses) examined the boy, he realized that the boy’s shoulder had been dislocated in the fall. But as if that wasn’t problem enough, because it hadn’t been reset, the shoulder began to “heal” out of socket. Dr. Lewis was faced with the problem that if he couldn’t get the boy’s shoulder back into socket, that it would completely heal out of socket and then it would cause the boy severe pain and problems for the rest of his life.

It took five grown men to hold that little boy down while the doctor manipulated his bones back into place. Even the best translator couldn’t help the boy to understand that although it was terribly painful now, this temporary pain was better than hurting for an entire lifetime.

Then, we met a different boy.

This little boy had been sitting too close to his mother’s cooking fire and his shirt had caught fire. He had third degree burns all over his back and his family had been able to get some antifungal medicine (the purple stuff you see on his back… which is actually not the best stuff to use for burns… but it was better than nothing, in their way of thinking.) But when they heard the doctors were in town, they brought him to us.

Dr. Lewis knew that the only way the boy’s burns were going to heal was debridement. (To cut away the dead and dying tissue.) It’s not a fun experience. It’s pretty painful, actually. The translator gently explained to him that the doctor could make him feel better, but that it would hurt a lot, first. He nodded his head and then stood there, unflinching and dry-eyed as Dr. Lewis did what had to be done.

I’m usually more like the first boy. I despise pain. I’ve joked that I’m allergic to it and I’ll do just about anything to avoid it. My Dad would be happy to tell you about all the times I would cry and scream while he’d remove splinters from my feet with his pocket knife and a needle. I would start crying and screaming before he’d ever get near me because I was so scared of the pain. But my experiences with the two little boys, looked at through the filter of my own experiences, teaches me something.

I can’t live with a splinter forever. It will get infected, give me blood poisoning, and I’ll die. (Worst case scenario there, to make my point.) It HAS to come out. I’m afraid of the pain and so I may try to live with it awhile, but I’ll be miserable, walking with a limp and that will eventually make my whole body sore. Also, honestly, when I’m that miserable, I’m prone to make everybody around me miserable. When I finally go to my Dad to let him take the splinter out, I could kick and scream and cry about it, but it’s just going to take longer and hurt more. If I’ll grit my teeth and be still, it will be quick and sometimes, I’ll barely feel it at all. And when it’s over, I’ll feel so much better!

One of the worst experiences of my life, that I’ve experienced again and again, is when I’m in denial that I have the splinter. I’m limping and hurting more and more, but just can’t figure out why. (Usually because I’m so scared that I make myself too busy to stop and think about it.) But some point comes when I have to realize and admit that there’s a problem, figure out what it is, and let God take the splinter (anger, unforgiveness, hurt, depression, eating disorder, addiction, self-hatred, etc.) Because honestly, only He has the eyes that can see exactly where the splinter is and only He has the hands that are strong and sure enough to remove it without damaging me further.

And that brings me to the excerpt from Chapter 5 of CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity that really resounded in me:

Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. (Lewis, 39)

This post is part of the regularly-scheduled book discussion my friend, Jason, and I co-facilitate each Wednesday. We are currently discussing CS Lewis’ classic book, Mere Christianity. We invite you to come along whether you’ve done the reading or not. All comments are welcome. And if you’ve written a response to this chapter on your own blog, please feel free to link your post via the link widget below. Thanks for coming by! You are always welcome!

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  1. You’re exactly right, Sarah. Christianity takes root in that dismay Lewis talks about. And as painful as it is, the splinter has to be removed if healing is to take place. Great stories!

  2. I’m not a fan of pain either. I flinch for the least little thing (I haven’t had a pap smear in years).
    But having a shoulder set? No. Even with meds, I’d fight them hard.
    I was touched by the same passage, though I chose a different one. It is amazing how many great quotes there are in four pages! 🙂

  3. I have tears in my eyes when I read this. How well do I know the Comforter! Of my Soul! Dear Husbandman that causes character to grow in dark times and pain turn into beauty. Our only requirement is to lean into the Comforter! “Press in, Dear One,” He seems to say. “And you will eat the Tree of Life– Jesus and out of your belly will flow living waters!” Good post! Hugs, Ms. Sara with and “h.” 🙂 Amy

  4. That’s a great point, the fear of the pain actually makes it worse. We build it up so much bigger until it seems overwhelming and unbearable. We need His peace and joy–no way around it! Thanks Sarah. Great post (even though I literally cried out in pain and started praying in the Spirit while reading your stories). 🙂

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Thanks, Glynn! It’s always good to see you ’round here!

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Helen, when my foot was dislocated, they gave me a percocet by mouth and it didn’t help. So, they gave me a shot in my hip, then two more in my foot. My Dad STILL had to hold me down while they reset it. Not my favorite memory. But if I hadn’t let them, I wouldn’t be able to walk today. So, worth the pain? Yeah.

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Benediciones, Amelia! And thanks for coming by and sharing! 🙂

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, I think the expression on the first little boy’s face speaks volumes. I thought about enlarging the picture so you could really see it, but decided against it. (It seemed intrusive, in some way.) And I still cringe now with the memories.

  9. *raises hand* Major pain avoider, here!! Oy! I totally get what you are saying here, girl. I often find myself trying to manage my own “splinters” without much success. Have you ever noticed how splinters come out easier when you let someone else remove them?? It is so much better to let Someone else help bind up our hurts. God did not design us to suffer alone. And if that is so, and I believe it is, then why am I so resistant? Something to think about. As always, a great post!

  10. Sarah Salter says:

    Joell, whenever I try to remove my own splinters, I always either push them in deeper or break them off. That’s when Dad has to resort to the needle/pocketknife combo to get them out. If I’d just left them alone and gone to him to start with, it would’ve been MUCH less painful! Love you, Sister!

  11. I was thinking about this the other day. I live in a VERY hot, dry, and dusty corner of the world and while I was walking to church I got a speck of something in my eye . . . and it wouldn’t come out. It was so painful, but stuck. Once I was able to produce a few tears to wash it away, I began to think about that verse that says something along the lines of taking care of your own log before someone else’s speck. And I wondered how it is that we are able to lie to ourselves for so long. In your splinter example, every step down would be painful, but yet we run from the anticipated pain of removal! Thanks for helping us to think!

  12. Sarah Salter says:

    That’s a GREAT example, Deb! Thanks so much for coming by and sharing it!

  13. Rene Estupinian says:

    That´s a wonderful experience! I had similar experiences when I had the opportunity of translate for medical mission trips hosted by my school. Every time we finished I felt like I was the one helped. I really felt like doing something so meaningful for people is really the purpose of Christians.
    Really loved your experience and how we need to take the splinter out of our lives, even though it hurts in the moment but it will be better for a long term. God is so great that even though, us been bad he still loves us and takes care about any problems we have.
    Hugs from El Salvador.

  14. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, Rene!

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