My friend, Julia, was spotting her fiance, Rob, during his workout yesterday when he dropped a dumbell on her toe. Dr. Terrie checked it out and drilled a hole in the toenail to relieve the pressure. (Keep in mind I'm getting all this second-hand, so I could have the facts wrong - not that I would ever let a little thing like the facts get in the way of a good story.) I hear tell there was plenty of blood and, a couple of x-rays later, Julia walked out of the medical center wearing a stylish new shoe which she was sporting at church this morning.
It sort of reminded me of an event from my college days. Thad Beard and I were playing ping-pong in the administration building. It was late at night, and I was supposed to be making rounds as a student security guard. The thing we usually did, though, was play ping-pong, eat pop tarts from the cafeteria, and read the Civ and Lit books from the library's reserve shelf. Thad and I were involved in a hotly contested match when he cracked off a big smelly one. I yelled "doorknob!" and commenced to chasing him. In college, yelling "doorknob" meant that a person had complete license to pummel the "flatulant" until he was able to locate and touch a doorknob. This provided a reasonable means of keeping dorm rooms odor free, but proved particularly difficult on long road trips.
On this particular night, Thad raced from the ping-pong table to the nearest door with me on his tail. Just before Thad reached the door I lunged at him. With all my weight going forward, my descending foot caught Thad's ascending heel. Something popped and a pain shot up my leg that dropped me like third period French. A trip to St. Lawrence Hospital revealed that I dislocated my big toe. It hurt like a son-of-a-gun.
As I told Julia earlier today, it is amazing how much pain such a small a part of the body can cause.
I think that is true in the body of Christ, too. Over the years I've learned that one person can cause considerable pain in the church. Occasionally that person has been me.
As I lay in the ER at St. Larry's, I would have been happy for the doc to tell me he was going to cut off my big toe if it would have stopped the pain. That's how we often handle the "extra grace required" Christians in our churches. Someone causes too much irritation and we chop 'em off. Sometimes its necessary. Bob Russell says that there are three reasons to remove a person from the Body: heresy, sexual immorality, and divisiveness. I agree with him. It's better to cut off the toe than to allow gangrene to infect the whole body. I wonder, though, if there are times when we chop off the "appendage" out of convenience rather than necessity. Shouldn't we be more graceful?
Looking back, I'm glad the doc reduced my dislocated toe rather than removing it. Maybe I can learn to do the same with folks who cause the rest of us pain from time to time. And if a blockhead like me can learn, maybe you can, too.