My oldest son has a habit of getting splinters in his hands. Well, usually his hands. I recall one going into his foot at least once as well. This has been going on since he was a preschooler. I don’t even know where he gets them from half the time, but he has a special talent for managing to find a way.
My two middle sons both had minor surgery last year. Andreas to stitch the inside of his mouth back together after he took a fall into the coffee table while jumping on the couch. Olivier to stitch what remained of his severed toe after he put it into a moving part on my elliptical machine. It took a while for my nerves to calm down. I was always sure I was going to turn around and find one of my sons bleeding profusely from some body part or other.
Worse though, than the splinters and the bleeding and the missing chunks of flesh, tiny as they may have been from a 2 year old’s toe – is the fixing of it all.
When Mateo was little he would shrink away, as if the tweezers I was using to remove the splinters were really a hacksaw meant to take off his whole hand in a torturous and bloody manner. He would panic and cry and insist that it wasn’t that bad and he’d rather live with the miniscule slices of wood in his hands or feet than have me remove them. I would look at his scared little face and talk to him while I put a hot compress over the skin. We’d test out the tweezers in some benign spot to see how they felt. And then, amid his tears and fear, I’d gently get the splinter out. Then I’d have to tell him it was done because he was so upset he couldn’t tell through his own minor hysteria. These days he just brings me the tweezers.
When Andreas busted his face open it was the blood that got us. It just wouldn’t stop. And worse was that the side of his face was drooping. Something was torn pretty awful in his little mouth. Glenn had to bring him to the dentist and then another dentist and then the hospital for surgery, because I had just had a baby two weeks before. Couldn’t leave her and couldn’t bring her, so I had to stay home. It killed me, not being there. When I got my son back from the skillful hands of the surgeon who fixed him, he was sewn up so tight that his mouth was crooked. There was nothing to be done about it, and his smile is still kind of crooked sometimes.
Fixing Olivier’s toe was entirely different. They put him out with ketamine in emerge, while the doctor folded the bits of skin around each other and sewed it all back up as best she could. They told us he wouldn’t have a toe nail anymore but I was just glad he still had a toe, gimpy as it may be. Once or twice a week for eight weeks, Glenn had to bring him back and forth to the hospital to have his toe cleaned up, the dead bits of skin cut off, and his dressing changed. I went once, and once was enough – the screaming coming from my traumatized 2 year old was more than I could bear. It took longer than they anticipated for the healing to be complete. He still pitches a fit when he has to get his hair cut and the stylist comes at him with scissors, which is why his hair was to his shoulders last time it was cut. His toe is now short, and missing that nubby little pocket of flesh on the underside. He does, surprisingly, have a little toe nail, but it grows over the top of his toe.
And then there’s Jesus. Hanging bleeding and naked on the cross. Chunks of flesh lashed from His body, splinters piercing like glass in the skin where there is any, and exposed muscle…and stuff…where the skin is gone. Nails in his hands and feet. Suffering for a world insisting it would rather die in sin than live by faith. Declaring the work done before anyone could tell what He’d accomplished anyway.
The hardest part was in the fixing.
And here I am. A girl with a God who quietly pulls the splinters out, splinters He’s already borne for me, splinters I insist I’d rather live with than have removed half the time. And when the pain of this life is so raw that it tears me up and I could swear my heart is going to bleed dry, there’s my Savior who already bled for me. I’m scarred and my smile isn’t the same but He’s sewed me back together in all of the bleeding places. And when it’s harder and the healing takes time He is my physician. First taking the pain and putting me back together best as can be done in the moment. So that at least I can walk and keep going. Then, later on, removing the bindings, cleaning out the wound, getting rid of the dead bits and dressing it again. And again. And again. As long as it takes for the healing to be complete, even when it’s taking longer than I thought it would. Even when it hurts and I’m just screaming every time. He can bear it.
Every time I think it’s too much and I can’t take it and I want to just wrap it up and call it a day, there is my Jesus. Working on me. Working on Glenn. And I believe to the core of me that both of us are going to be found healed and whole through it all, so help me God. So I stayed, and keep staying, not because I have to or should. Not because I’m afraid to leave. Not because it’s what’s best for my kids. Not because I’m a good Christian. Not because the Bible told me to.
I stay because my God isn’t finished with me yet, and He isn’t finished with Glenn, and He certainly isn’t finished with our marriage yet – and until He bloody well is, this is where I want to be. Wrapped up in the kind of grace that can only be found in this kind of a mess. Splinters like glass cutting me to my heart and soul and Jesus always there in the impossible somehow managing to find a way.
We have come a long, long way. We aren’t there yet, wherever ‘there’ is. I’m not sure I believe in vows anymore, at least not the same way I used to, but I believe in love and grace and mercy and redemption and healing. I believe that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me dearly for better or for worse, and that His love isn’t wrapped up in the success or failure of my marriage. A God who loves Glenn the same way. I believe that good people can have messy marriages and that it’s okay to be human and say so.
Maybe this is something I can’t explain exactly right, but I think this is as close to an apologetic for my marriage as I can come. It’s part faith, part me being stubborn as hell, and part miracle. But mostly Jesus.
copyright (c) 2013 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved