Bruises as Badges

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I’m sure before I say another word, you all want to know the deal with that big, ugly bruise. So, here’s the story and how this bruise has actually taught me a lot.

Last Monday I went shooting with some friends. I had never shot a gun before, but I was super pumped for the opportunity. We went out in the middle of nowhere; one of the guys showed us how to load and stand and all that. My first go was with a 22 rifle. To my surprise, I was a really good shot. I was hitting the target (a coffee cup) from my first shots. I was so good the guy who was going after me admitted he was a little embarrassed to go because he wasn’t as good a shot–and he’d been shooting before. I was very proud of myself.

The next gun was a 12 gauge. This one was going to be a little different. Less precision, more kick. Actually, one of the guys stood right against me so that I wouldn’t fall over when I shot it. There were about 4 rounds in it, and every shot hurt.

The final rifle was an even bigger gun. By this point, my arms were so weak I couldn’t even cock the gun without help. And, of course, the kick was even worse than the 12 gauge. I only got off 2 shots before I had to quit. When I got in, I noticed my right arm was really sore, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. That is, until I changed clothes. I changed out of my long-sleeved shirt to find this huge bruise. It hadn’t even been 24 hours yet, and it was already purple and blue at the edges. My roommate and I marvelled at it for a good while.

(There is camera video of this whole deal on my laptop, and I must say, it’s quite hilarious. )

Did it hurt? Absolutely. But I was proud. I guess in a way, I felt I had proven something to myself and to the world: that maybe I’m not as weak as I seem. This was the proof. I could take a hit–heck, I could take several! Of course, I guess technically I am “mildly wounded,” haha. But my wound became something I was proud of. To me, it represented something bigger.

Lately, I’ve been learning about weakness and all its implications. God has basically been trying to draw me out. I’m taking a class on conflict, and we had to review a book called Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict by Jim Van Yperen. It’s an awesome book; I highly recommend it because it talks about practices we condone and engage in as individual Christians and how those come into play in the church. So, it’s useful, even if you’re not in a church conflict. Anyway, in the book he talks a lot about community and confession in the church. Those ideas are things I’ve always dreamed of seeing it and living it out in the church, and reading the book made me hunger for that even more.

Then, my roommate commented to me the other day that she’s noticed I’ve been a lot more open with people lately. I hadn’t thought about it, but when she said that, I realized she was right. I have been letting people in on “what’s really going on” lately–more than usual. I thought, “Good for me. Maybe God’s using the book to teach me something.”

As I was writing the review, though, God completely caught me off guard. John Eldredge’s book Waking the Dead says that all the bad circumstances we’ve been through deliver a message from Satan. It’s a theme, if you will, that he weaves into our negative experiences until we begin to believe it and live from that vantage point, instead of the truth of God. When I first read Waking the Dead almost two years ago, I had some general ideas about what my “theme” might be, but nothing that seemed to fully capture it. Well, in the middle of the report, like a bolt of lightning, it struck me. My theme has been this: “Nobody will care about you to the same extent/in the same way that you care about them.” It was so big I had to stop working and chew on it for awhile. But the more I thought, the more I knew it was true. That’s the past message I got from experiences with family, friends, and guys I liked. And it dictates a lot of what I do. That’s why I’m content to pour myself into people without expecting anything in return. It’s why I don’t bat an eye if somebody doesn’t come through. Yeah, it affects a lot of stuff. As I was still pondering all this, God told me to call one of my friends who had committed to pray for me and tell him. I didn’t want to. That would mean me putting myself in the very position I try to avoid being in–the very position that my “theme” enables me to sidestep. Still, I knew I had to. So I did. It left me in a very vulnerable place, to say the least. In a sense, to be honest, I feel like I’ve exposed myself and now I’m wanting to undo it and go back somehow, though we all know it’s difficult–if not impossible–to “go back” on stuff like that. Still, I’m trying to fight that urge because I still believe that I did what I was supposed to do.

Back to the bruise. I’ve proudly (and painfully) carried that thing on my arm this week more like a badge than a bruise. Really, though, it’s just a bruise. If anything, it’s proof of how tender I actually am. Yet I’ve been showing it off.

So, if I can show off a huge bruise, why do I still hesitate to let my brothers and sisters see the bruises on my heart? The weaknesses, the struggles, all that. For some reason, this week especially, God has been allowing my weaknesses (“inner bruises”) to surface, and He’s been prompting me to show them to people.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul says, “Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Maybe my weaknesses are actually more like badges of strength than I realize, kind of like my bruise.

This thing on my arm has become a symbol of so much more than a fun shooting adventure . . .

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