It’s amazing how long the memory of pain can stay with you. I had just dropped my son, Justice, off at a baseball game for pre-game warm ups, when Faith said, ”Silly brother, he just fell off the fence!” I pulled the car back into the parking place and told my daughter to sit and the car and wait for me while I went to check on him. What I found out was the gate to the field was locked, so he and the rest of the team were climbing the 6 foot chain link fence in their cleats. Justice’s cleat got stuck on the top of the fence, he felt himself start to loose his balance so he jumped, not realizing his cleat was firmly attached to the top. He broke his fall with his arm. In retaliation the fall broke his arm. When I got to him he was sitting on the grass and said he was ok, one of the other mom’s near by said she was pretty sure it wasn’t good. I climbed the fence and proceeded to try to inspect the damage. He kept saying he was ok but when I went to move his arm it bent completely down about 3 inches above the wrist. Now, I’m no doctor but I figured we had a broken arm. I turned to the coach who had been standing right there to tell him it was broken and he was no where to be found. I guess he saw the arm swinging in the breeze and decided to leave before he passed out. Since I was confident in my diagnosis I figured the next step was getting him to the ER…but the gate was still locked and they couldn’t find the janitor who had the key. So we sat and waited. And waited. And waited some more. At one point Justice passed out from the pain but through the whole thing he never complained. Silent tears would roll down his face but nothing was ever said. Thankfully about 25 minutes later they finally located the key and helped me carry him to the car and we were off to the ER.
At this point the shock was wearing off and the pain was excruciating. Thank God for morphine and amazing nurses. They tried setting his arm in the ER but the damage was too extensive so they sent us home with pain meds and a splint and told us we’d get a call first thing in the morning for surgery. As they were getting ready to discharge us the nurse told us no pain meds after midnight since he’d probably be having surgery first thing in the morning. This seemed weird to me so I verified with two other nurses and a doctor and all of them agreed, no pain meds after midnight. At 4:00 am when the meds started wearing off I had no idea the hell we were about to walk through. By 6:00 I sat on the ground next to my son’s recliner and we both just sat there and cried. There are no words when you see your child in that much pain and are completely helpless to do anything except hold their hand. At 7:00 the nurse from the surgery center called to schedule his surgery, but before she could say anything I was begging her to allow me to give him some meds. She was confused as to what I was talking about. I explained to her that per doctors orders he hadn’t taken any pain meds since midnight. I’ll never forget her words, ”Honey, set down the phone and go give that child some pain meds right now. I’ll wait.” It appeared that the ER staff had miss informed me and he should have had pain meds all along.
Surgery went smoothly and thankfully they were able to just put a pin in versus having to do plates and screws. Since he was only half way through 6th grade he had a lot of growing left to do and if they put in plates and screws they’d have to go back later to remove them. The pain was constant for the first 4-6 weeks until the pin and the full arm cast was removed and exchanged for a cast that went just below the elbow. Once they took the pin out there was immediate relief. Another 4-6 weeks in the short cast and then the big day came to have it completely removed! We walked into the all too familiar doctor’s office with tentative excitement, ready for this whole ordeal to finally be put behind us but not sure what the next step looked like. They cut off the cast, fitted him for a new removable brace and sent us on our way. As we were walking back out through the waiting room I look down at my son expecting to see joy and instead I see fear and him fighting to hold back tears. He looks up at me and in a choked voice said, ”Please, have them put it back on! It’s not safe, I don’t like the way this feels, I just want my cast back!”
This past Sunday our pastor asked the question, why do we hold on to our guilt? Then compared it to someone who broke their arm and didn’t want to have the cast removed even after it healed. He stated how silly that was because there was no longer a need for the cast. I was instantly transported back to that doctor’s office and the look of fear on my son’s face. He didn’t need the cast anymore, his arm was healed, but after living with it for the better part of three months it was part of him. There was a comfort level, a security, that came from having the cast. Had I not experienced this event for myself I would have agreed with the pastor, how silly indeed. But, having walked this road with my son, rationally it is silly, but emotionally and mentally it makes sense. What he had gone through was traumatizing, and in his mind as long as he had that cast he was safe.
Holding on to guilt rationally is silly. We’ve been forgiven. Our sin no longer defines who we are. We are free to use our lives to glorify and honor Him, and yet…..I find myself encased in the safety of the self accused, I’m not good enough, I’m not ready to be used because I’m not strong enough, I still have scars. I walk around scared to trust that I’m truly loved and that He has really taken care of the cost of my fall. My son walked around for the first few days with his arm tucked up against his body. There was still pain if it got jarred or if he tried to use it to lift heavy objects. The chronic pain threatened to paralyze him, as fear moved on. He’s arm was all shriveled up from lack of use, the skin was pale and sloughing. A constant reminder of his fall. When we fall, the guilt, fear and shame are constant reminders of our failures. We see and feel the consequences and hold on to them thinking that somehow that will keep us safe. Or maybe we feel like we deserve the pain as punishment. Either way we hold on and walk around like our arm is still broken. Unable to fully participate and be effective.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time for healing. Had he ripped the cast off and not let his arm healed he would have been crippled for life. But after it healed had he not begun to use it, he would have acted like he was crippled for life. Eventually he was able to see this pain as a reminder of where he had come from and a warning to be careful. He slowly started trusting his arm again and began using it normally, all though to this day he’s still eats left handed. Guilt is the same way, if we are wise we’d see it as a reminder of the failures we’ve had in the past and a warning of what not to do in the future, but not allow it to paralyze us because the price has been paid and we’ve been forgiven and healed.
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