Born with a congenital intestinal malformation, two surgeries as an infant left me with a six-inch scar down the middle of my stomach, somewhat resembling a zipper. Once, in the course of playing with friends at church around the age of 7 or 8, someone scratched this scar. I ran from the room in a panic, found my mom, pulled her from the class she was teaching and into a closet, tears streaming down my face, my body trembling. I blurted out, “Jenny scratched my stomach!”
Instead of exhibiting deep concern, my mom appeared confused. She obviously did not understand how dire the situation was. I explained further, surprised that I would have to explain at all.
“Jenny scratched my stomach and I’m afraid all my guts will come out!”
She asked to see the wound. After examining it, she seemed to stifle laughter. Smiling, she took my face in her hands to calm me and lovingly explained, “Honey, your scar is just like the rest of your skin when it gets scratched. It heals. Your guts can’t fall out through your scar.”
Well, this was news to me! All of my short little life I believed my “guts” were one mishap away from spilling out of my body. My understanding of this scar was influenced by my understanding of zippers; zippers can come open. I assumed everyone else knew this too. Up until this point, I had conditioned my mind and body to interact with the world in a certain way. When I incurred that slight injury, suddenly, what I believed became a life and death situation for me. Even after learning the truth, I still found myself playing in such a way as to guard my stomach from others. My posture during play had become second nature. But when I remembered the truth that I did not have to guard my stomach, I stood a little straighter, ran a little harder, interacted a little more boldly. I experienced joy and relief each time I remembered! If a situation had not arisen that drew me to express my beliefs, I may have continued to live in fear for quite a while.
Recently, some difficult circumstances forced me to give voice to beliefs I did not realize I held. These views of God, of Christ, of the gospel, and of others did not reflect the truth; as a result, I walked in fear. As I shared my fears and pain, my friends firmly, yet tenderly and joyfully, comforted me with truth. Sometimes, I confess, I accused myself with thoughts of “You should have known better! You are an adult. You’ve been doing this Christian thing all your life.” But just like that little girl, sometimes, I couldn’t have known better. I might not have had occasion to voice what I believed if difficult circumstances had not forced me to face them. And like my mother, who would not have known how I viewed that scar, my brothers and sisters may have assumed I knew the truth.
Just as my faulty thinking about my scar was influenced by my understanding of zippers, our understanding of God, or each other, is influenced by sin and faulty thinking. We interpret life according to our faulty understanding. Our straying, fearful steps, however well-intentioned or blindly unintentioned, even completely intentioned, are indicative of our fallen state. We are broken. Not broken as in sad, or broken as in hurting (although our sorrow and pain contributes to our worldview). We are broken as in defective. We do not think and walk in light of the truth, and we often do not realize this.
Like a straying sheep, I did not grow up with an inherent understanding of the truth. What I believed, influenced by sin and lies, affected how I interacted with the world. It affected my “posture,” so to speak. Praise be to God, he teaches us and transforms us, often using difficult circumstances. He trains us in truth to walk as what we are: new creatures. I also praise God for my brothers and sisters because one of the means through which he transforms us, and this is a very important one, is the church. I may not have realized my sin or faulty thinking if I had not shared my struggles. Out of deep love and compassion, my friends corrected me and restored me into fellowship. They knew the gospel as a balm for broken souls. My beliefs, exposed by pain, were shown for what they were; false. But I was not left exposed. My friends clothed me in love with the truth of the gospel as they spoke clearly and tenderly. My community brought me back to the shepherd and overseer of my soul. Now, my posture has changed.
I pray I always humbly receive whatever trials may come as a means of rooting me deeper in the truth of the gospel. I also pray I humbly receive the words of truth ministered to me by those who love Jesus and who have been called according to his purpose. I pray the same for all of us who, in light of the truth, desire to walk a little straighter, run a little harder, and interact a little more boldly with the world.