Today I wanted to talk about stickers.
Not the kind my toddler likes. Although, just so you know, those are hard to get out of hair…in case you were wondering.
No, I am talking about sandburs. If you aren’t familiar with sandburs, just imagine stepping on a lego, except with dozens of teeny tiny spikes on it that get stuck in your foot. They are sharp and painful, and we have a lot of them in the sandy parts of Oklahoma.
Normally you can avoid getting any by wearing long pants and boots, but as a young child, I refused to wear shoes. I preferred being barefoot, and somehow believed I would be impervious to the sandburs. My plan was simply to step around the patches that lay in waiting on the ground for my unsuspecting, exposed foot.
As you are probably guessing, my plan failed. I regularly ran in the house while balancing on one side of my foot, screaming at the top of my lungs for my Dad. You see, he was an expert at dealing with sandburs. When he was young, he and his cousins used to throw them at each other (it makes me cringe too)!
Naturally, they had to learn how to dig the sandburs out of their flesh because of their “game”. My Dad was always very gentle, but I had a knack for getting them buried deep in my heel and ankle, and it always stung to have them pulled out.
I would cry when he told me some of them were deep enough he would need to use a needle to get them out. My Dad, though he hid it pretty well, didn’t particularly enjoy having to do this with me. He’d always sterilize it and talk me through the process so I wouldn’t be scared. Then, after a few tears, he’d show me the sandburs and I’d swear I was never getting one again.
Except I did. All the time. Because I didn’t want to wear shoes and continued to believe I was…shall we say…sandbur-proof. Sure, I’d wear shoes for a week or two, but then my little memory decided to tell me things would be different if I went barefoot again. I’d be more careful, or at least more tolerant of the pain if I got another one.
Sandburs make me think of God. Often times, the pain is our lives is of our own doing (or a product of our choices). Sometimes, instead of recognizing that the problems we are facing are directly related to the choices we’ve made, we blame God. How could He let this happen?
The truth is, we are able to make choices in life. This is a gift, and just like many other gifts we have received from Him, we corrupt it. Instead of seeing our freedom as the responsibility to do the right thing, we say “I’m a big kid, I do what I want”, even when what we want is the equivalent of running through a patch of sandburs.
Consider 1 Corinthians 10:23: “I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.
I don’t wish to say that all of our problems are from us making bad choices, some of them are from other people making bad choices and some of them are simply from living in a fallen world. I just know that, for myself, I make bad choices, sometimes repeatedly, and then wonder why God won’t stop the pain.
Sometimes God allows pain as a warning sign. Often times, He does try to help you get the sandbur out of your foot, but the consequences of your choice (pain) still remain until you stop making that choice and allow healing.
I’m happy to say that I did stop getting sandburs in my feet (though I still walk around barefoot when I can), and I’ve also recognized and stopped my spiritual “sandbur situations” in a lot of cases too. I’m just very slow and stubborn in doing so.
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