What My Thumb Taught Me

I do not much like moving.  My wife and I have moved seven times in 25 years, and we keep saying the last one was the last.  Each time, our Master has led us somewhere else, and this time is no different.  And each time, our Master teaches us something else, and this time is no different.

We sold a lot of our furniture and most of our books because we figured we’d be in a smaller house.  It seems were were wrong there, although that doesn’t make the action wrong.  My wife simply has a chance to purchase different pieces, pieces to fit this house. One of those pieces was a fine Bassett coffee table.  Did you know that finer furniture is more likely to be made of solid wood? And did you further know that such construction makes them heavier?

On our way up the stairs to the living room, I was manly enough to one-hand the end of the table for second to use my left to steady myself with the rail.  My wife took another step up, I reached with my “free” hand to keep the table from hitting the wall, and it twisted just as I did so.  I hit the table so hard with my thumb it tore the nail and bruised the flesh beneath.  Oh, and it hurt.

The table looks great in the living room, my thumbnail, didn’t look good at all.  Torn fingernails are like those sores you get in your mouth once you bite your cheek by mistake.  The spot keeps getting bit, making it worse.  So, my thumbnail had a piece that stuck up and caught on everything, making it worse.  The best solution seemed to be to put a band-aid on the thumb to protect the nail until it grew out.

Did you know that band-aids stick to skin better than they do to themselves?  I had no idea.  After this brilliant solution, the band-aid is in the way, collecting dirt, fraying (they’re the nice cloth ones), and unsticking from itself, and my thumb.  I end up needing two a day or more because they’re so messy.  Yesterday, my fingernails were getting long, so I trimmed them, including the offending thumbnail.  My enduring the difficulty of problem and solution is paying off.  One more trim and the thumbnail should be fine without the band-aid.

As a philosopher, I can’t not think about something beyond the thing itself.  It’s kind of a curse.  In this case, a passage from 1 Corinthians 12 came back to me:

For the body is not one member, but many.

On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:14, 22-27 NASB)

The metaphor became clearer, even adding the element of a band-aid.  I found that, with the band-aid on my thumb, the thumb didn’t work right.  Did you know that the opposable finger is actually necessary for gripping, and a span grip is impossible without it.  So, the basic plastic dog dish gets dropped unless I use two hands.  The bowl in the microwave, so hot I need to move quickly, succumbs to gravity unless I burn both hands.  I can’t grip, and the band-aid is slippery, even the cloth ones, or maybe more so the cloth ones.  I loose the benefit of this extremely useful phalanx, but temporarily, while the nail grows out.

I think the same happens in our believing communities.  We have those who work, who serve, who are so useful the community relies on them for more than they realize.  Then, in the midst of the service, doing what they’re designed to do, disaster strikes! Okay, not really disaster, but something partly painful, but more debilitating.  Now, when the same things are attempted, these very things make the debilitating condition even worse.  It becomes clear quickly that, to heal, this useful member of the body needs some protection.

Enter the band-aid, cue the mood-elevating music, and let’s bring these two together.  But the tone of the music changes, modulating from happy to dissonant, to staccato.  The helper becomes it’s own type of debilitation! How can this be? Rid the helper! Sometimes no help is better than debilitating help! Compensating to protect the useful one isn’t a solution, it makes it worse…well, no, no it doesn’t, actually.  This band-aid, though not perfect, enables the thumb to heal, and that is truly the goal. Or, it should be.

Those who “come alongside to help” are not always convenient.  Sometimes a reminder that we need the help isn’t fun.  Other times, they come along side to help, but also make things more difficult, require extra time and resources, it seems easier without them, but then the goal is missed.  The work becomes the goal, and the people working become “resources” to accomplish the work.  Oops, suddenly, it becomes clear.  We’ve lost the perspective of our Master, for Whom we’ve been working…

It’s not about the work, it’s about the relationships working.  Our Master doesn’t “discard” people, yet, we seem happy to burn up the wounded to further the work.  Why? Didn’t our Master tell us plainly that His yoke was easy, and His burden light?  Why are we driving the wounded into the ground?  Why would we despise the “band-aid”?

Those enabled and called by the Holy Spirit to come along side His people to help heal are indispensable to the health of His body.  But, these people can also be annoying to those driven to achieve rather than relate.  Healing is a purpose of the body of Jesus, His communities of disciples.  The problem is that it can be difficult to spot the purpose when we’re so outward focused.  We want to heal the world instead of realizing the purpose achieved through healing those among us.  We miss that healing is often more relational than operational.

The lesson I learned from my thumb and its band-aid, the point of this entry, is to appreciate both the amazing work done by such wonderful people, the thumbs of the body of Jesus; people who help us grasp the mundane and the holy, both.  But also, those impeding helpers, the healers slowing down the “process” so people have a chance to heal, appreciating them.  Love covers a multitude of sins, weaknesses, and blemishes.  Let us love one another, even more as we see the day approaching.

That’s my view through the knothole this morning.  Who knew a thumb could be a knothole?  What do you see through your knothole (or phalanx, if that’s what our Master uses)?