After work on July 2, in Santiago, Dominican Republic, I went on a run. It was getting dark, and I was worrying about being out alone in a neighborhood that was still new to me, even though my host family's house was right in front of the park. I was looking at the street, not at the path in front of me. All of a sudden, I slipped on gravel and ended up on the ground.
Like every good runner, I know you can't stop in the middle--it's bad for your heart rate! There was only a little blood, on my right knee and hand. So, I got up and kept going. I would be okay.
After another kilometer, I skipped a step so I could catch a glimpse of my knee. There was blood running halfway down my leg. I wiped it with my hand and kept going.
I haven't skinned my knee like that in at least 8 years. Over the next 10 days, I would walk out onto the roof of the house I am staying in, and cut off an aloe stalk to "anoint" my knee and my hand twice a day. That stuff really smells, but it works! And hey, 23-year-old skin doesn't heal as fast as 15-year-old skin!
I resisted the urge to cover up my battle scars, preferring to wear skirts to stay cool--even if it did mean telling the story to everyone I saw.
On July 12, just 10 days later, I was running in the same park. But now, I had already run there several times, so even though it was getting dark again, I felt more comfortable. I distracted myself with thoughts about the past few days, and the meaning of the song I was listening to.
Suddenly, skiiiiiiiidddd bam! I was on the ground again--in the exact same spot. This time, I landed halfway on my right side, so I had a lighter scrape on the side of my right knee, and the wound on my hand had reopened.
Well, I know what to do, I told myself. Keep running. After a bit I checked for blood, and there was none, on my leg at least. But my hand was throbbing with pain for the rest of the run.
After 3 and a half kilometers, I stretched and went inside to wash my cuts. At first, I didn't tell anyone. How stupid! I thought. It wasn't so much that I had fallen. What got me the most was that I fell in the exact same spot as before, at the same time of the evening. I should have known.
That night, as I climbed into bed, I carefully positioned my hand palm-up so I could sleep comfortably--but to no avail. I woke up 3 times before the sun came up, each time with a throbbing pain in my hand.
The next day, we went to a clinic to get it checked and cleaned out. It hurt a lot, but I think they got some gravel out of there.
I felt stupid, again, this time because I was in the hospital for something so small.
But, God works all things out for the good. I really, truly believe that. I see it all the time.
In this story, I saw it in two ways--one tangible, and one intangible.
The tangible: In the clinic, my host brother and co-worker made 2 contacts with potential volunteer doctors for development work here. And, the receptionist decided not to charge me a single dime, even though he had said it would be $25 (which my insurance would have paid anyway.... but that's still nice).
The intangible: As I climbed up the stairs to the house after that second fall, I couldn't help but think I was being warned, in the most loving but obvious way possible.
I fell at first because I was afraid, and fear kept me from looking at the path I was on and focusing on the race I was running.
I fell the second time because I was distracted. I wasn't afraid, and I didn't need to be. But I should have been alert. I had fallen before, in that same spot, at that same time of night. I should have been watching.
In my life, too, I fall because I am afraid and distracted. In spite of the pain, with God's help, I get up and keep running, in reckless determination to lay hold of the One who laid hold of me. I also go to see the Great Physician who heals the sick and binds up my wounds. He has some kind of crazy spiritual aloe (aka the blood of the Lamb, Jesus) which He covers our wounds with. It brings deep, lasting healing.
The fall happens in the blink of an eye. But deep, true healing takes time.
Sometimes, even before the healing is complete, I forget what I just learned. I disregard the grace of God, and I let distractions take my eyes off of Christ and the race He has called me to run. And I fall hard--in the exact same sin as before. I'm not always alert as I should be, because my adversary, the devil is roaming about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I let my eyes slip off of the goal again, and the exact same stones cause me to stumble, once again.
As I look at my hand now--another 10 days later--soft, pink skin has appeared where there used to be cuts so ugly no one wanted to shake my hand or give me a high-five. And no one has asked me about my knee in at least a week.
The healing is almost done, and if the skin that comes in it's place isn't exactly 100% as good as new, it will be a reminder of God's faithfulness to me in spite of my unfaithfulness.
I smile when I think of how God used such a situation to correct me in the face of very real struggles. He never ceases to amaze me with His gentle, creative, loving, and merciful correction!
Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.