A few years ago I had the good fortune to play ultimate Frisbee with a group of kids on Sunday afternoons at Laurel Park.  As the weather got warmer, I started playing barefoot in the soft grass.

One Sunday evening, I stepped on something.  I’m a lifetime warm-weather barefooter, so this was not a big deal to me.  I’m used to getting thorns or splinters in my feet.  When I looked at the back of my heel, I couldn’t find anything—no entry wound, no little brown speck—but, as I said, I’m used to this sort of “injury,” so I didn’t worry.  Splinters always work toward the surface.

Not this one.  By the end of the week it was so painful that I couldn’t stand to have anything touch it.  I could only wear flip-flops and I had to be careful not to roll my heel.  The following weekend was Memorial Day weekend, though, and I figured that during the annual Young Life beach trip a good soak in the Gulf would cure what ailed me.

I went down on Thursday evening and barely slept that night.  Just the pressure of the sheet was enough to wake me up.  On Friday, another of the houseguests showed up who happened to be both a friend and a doctor.  I don’t remember if he noticed me limping around the house or if I was whining about it, but he offered his superb surgical skills.

Please picture this in your head:  A beach house with about 15 people hanging out inside and out of it.  The aforementioned OB/GYN is positioned at one end of the couch with the lamp, tweezers, and a needle.  I am facedown on the couch with my foot in his lap.  At some point he noticed that I was chewing on the arm of the couch, I think, because he stopped and said, “I’m hurting you too much.”  I told him to please go ahead, get it out, that I would be fine, but I don’t think he understood me because I was still chewing on the couch.  We took a little trip to the Destin CVS to get a syringe of lidocaine (with a needle that was roughly the size of a coffee stirrer,) some Betadyne, and some antibiotics.

So, back to the house, back on the couch.  In just a few minutes he had removed a piece of glass–a tiny piece, something that only a trained professional would have seen–that had entered my heel and worked itself in until I think it was somewhere behind my right kneecap.  I’ve dealt with splinters many times and they always work themselves out.  I’ve had stitches that worked themselves to the surface after many weeks.  But glass?  It goes in, not out.[1]

Why am I telling this story now?  (With footnotes?  Get it?  FOOTnotes?)  I’ve noticed that pain—both physical pain and pain of the soul—gets more intense at night.[2]  Something as light and harmless as a bed sheet made the pain in my foot flare up, and as the night wears on sometimes things that are normally light and even comforting can aggravate our ailments.

I’m telling this now because I’ve also noticed how often God sends someone to help us when we need it.  If I have a splinter I can’t get to, I still go visit my mother with the tweezers and a needle.  (I had sent her in after this piece of glass already, in fact.)  When the pain got very bad, I was not only with other people who could help, but God saw fit to put me in a beach house with (among others) a talented, compassionate surgeon.  (Bonus:  It was at the beach.  That’s always a bonus.)

So many things have happened in the last year that I can’t reach, can’t pull out on my own, and can’t heal with my own tools.  That’s not at all comfortable for someone like me, who likes to take care of herself.  I don’t like for people to see that I’m in pain, or that I’m scared.  What if it makes them uncomfortable?  What if they don’t care?  I’m not good at saying that I need help.  I have a hard time believing that anyone has the time to help me, even if they care to.  Over the years people have told me that I’m awful at accepting compliments; I believe that it’s all connected.  I fear interconnectivity.  I don’t want to need you because you may fail me; I don’t want you to need me too much because I may fail you.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just do it on my own?

But God has sent me people with talented, caring hands.  Every day I get some unexpected message or prayer from someone who cares for me more than I knew.  My boys—boys!  Those people who are supposed to be insensitive and selfish!—send me messages asking how I am, wishing me luck, and reminding me that I’m loved.  They tell me this because they know how much I have loved them (maybe against my will!)  God has provided me with a series of new shows throughout the course of the year with completely new people, and I’ve had nothing but encouragement and affirmation from them.  I have a passel of new friends, to boot.

So many times over the last year, I’ve prayed that God would heal what makes me limp.  I’ve prayed for a job.  I’ve prayed to ward off worry and panic.  I’ve felt like a kid going into an exam—I thought I was ready for this, but now I wonder if I shouldn’t have done more to prepare somehow.  My prayer was, “Please, Lord—don’t test me!”  And I’m only realizing now that I was praying that however my problems were solved could just stay between me and him.  Apparently it doesn’t work that way.

There’s more to this exam than just humbling me and making me ready for what he has.  When I had that piece of glass in my foot, there was no way I could take care of it myself.   Even if I could reach it or see it, I would not be able to extract it on my own.   He had to send me some help, someone who saw that I was hurting, who knew not only that he had to help me do what I couldn’t see or fix, but how to do it well.[3]

He also had to make me willing to accept help and to accept love.  That’s one of those lessons that may take me a while to learn.

We’re not made to be ingrown.  We’re not made to handle things alone.[4]  We’re made to trust.  We’re made to love.  We’re made for community.  May God continue to teach us all graciously to want to be wanted, to need to be needed, to love to be loved.

[1] I could write another entire blog on this, about injuries that are undetectable to begin with, and that become completely unbearable over time.  Not tonight.

[2] One of these days I’ll put my thoughts together on why pain—physical or emotional—is so much more intense at night.

[3] …and who knew what to do when I wouldn’t stop bleeding all over the floor…and what to do when I almost passed out because I wouldn’t stop bleeding all over the floor.  It was an awesome night, and great entertainment for the rest of the house.

[4] That rhymes.  Maybe it would make a really great bad song.  Good thing that’s not my line of work.