There was a period in my life when my siblings and I were homeschooled. This short stint did wonders for me academically and was ripe with moments that marked me for life. A common activity for the homeschooling group we were a part of was “co-ops”, don’t ask me what we did, because I don’t necessarily remember, but I think I learned how to bake a cake, identify different trees and certainly had tons of fun with my friends. On one such co-op day we went to Big Bone Lick State Park in Union, KY. Toward the end of our outing my mom went with another mom/friend of the family to go get something to drink or whatever moms did during those things. Before walking away she gave my 7 year old brother specific directions to sit down on the bench and wait for her to come back. He, like most little boys, sat still for all of about 10 seconds after she walked away. He saw the other boys challenging each other on those super cool monkey-bar-ring-things and being a young opportunist made his move… He said he made it about halfway across when his hands got slippery…. My mom returned approximately 6 minutes after she left and saw Brennan sitting on the bench with his head down almost in his lap. It was weird and not characteristic of him, but she brushed it off to one of his games. As she got closer her maternal instincts really kicked in and she asked him what was wrong, to which he replied “nothing”. She told him to look at her and that was when his tears started. Still not knowing what was going on she looked down at his lap where his left arm had the same curve as a pipe under the sink. She panicked a little to see her little boy’s badly broken arm. When he was asked later why he didn’t say anything (he wasn’t even crying until he looked her in the eye), he said “I didn’t do what you told me and I didn’t want you to be mad”.
Much pain in the world
I remembered this moment a lot last weekend. I attended a retreat for university students in the outskirts of Madrid. The experience was powerful for me and for the others. The retreat was a time to “come to Jesus” with everything that is built up inside and bring it to His light. A chance to kneel before Him, allow Him to put His fingers in our ears, His saliva on our tongue and command (with so much compassion and love) that we be opened. “Effetá”. There is a lot of pain in the world. There is a lot of pain in the heart of each of us- the pain of disappointment, lack of love or understanding, the poor choices, sins, or weakness of others- especially of those we love or have looked up to; pain from those who are supposed to represent God’s love, pain from our own weakness, sin and self inflicted injuries. And often, we can go back to our park bench with our pain and just sit there, keeping others at a distance and getting angry at God for allowing us to hurt- but these are pains that we can’t fix on our own, we have to go to each other, we have to go to God. This weekend, I watched young people look God in the eye and ask for His healing and help. I saw real relationships opening back up, I saw the “broken arms” that said “I didn’t do what you said; I’m hurting, but I was afraid and ashamed to come to you”. This primordial human tendency to hide in pain that first showed itself in the Garden doesn’t just manifest in little kids who disobey and end up breaking a bone, it shows itself in each of us. Honestly, it’s a whole lot easier to have compassion on a physical wound than on a psychological wound, and certainly easier than having genuine compassion on an emotional wound. Like the Pharisees who were ready to stone the adulterous woman (whom I don’t think was able to be an adulteress all by herself) we can throw rocks of indifference, false pity or judgment at each other, reinforcing that “park bench” tendency. I know I have.
But, if we let ourselves be brought mute and deaf before Jesus, He will take us apart from the others, stick His fingers in our ears (not very comfortable), put His spit on our tongue (gross. Hadn’t He heard of germs?), and groan the command “Ephphatha!” (but we might not know it, because we are deaf and our ears are plugged). And with the power of the Holy Spirit, our hearts that are deaf to our pain and that of others will hear and our tongue will be loosed to speak words of genuine forgiveness, contrition and love to a hurting world. “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak”.