Indeed, the road of my life is not the only road with its ruts. Every time I listen to someone else’s story it is evident that all our roads are rutted somewhere along the way. I believe I would be amazed and surprised—be it pleasantly though—to hear a story where someone’s road of life was all smooth and even.
Ruts give us character. Our responses to them refine and define who we are and even can change the direction in which we are traveling. Ruts can be messy as we slide our way through the muck and goo of life, sometimes stuck spinning our tires, sometimes out of control. Other times the ruts are dried out, hard and unyielding. We bump and bounce around, with every sense jarred; the ruts trap us in their track.
The name of a certain hospital came up this morning, and I started reminiscing about my trips there some forty years ago. The following tale was—in view of my entire life—a very small rut but interesting none the less.
As a new bride, I was cleaning the apartment my husband had lived in for a few years before we were married.
He usually had his clothes dry cleaned, but he never threw out the plastic bags from the cleaners or the hangers. There were closets literally stuffed full of empty plastic bags and hangers. I grew up in a household with siblings ten to twelve years younger than I, and it had been drilled into me that this was intolerably dangerous. I soon set about the task of ridding the apartment of these potential child killers.
I would grab handfuls of plastic bags, yank them free and dutifully tie them in knots before depositing them in the garbage. The hangers would rear backwards till the plastic gave way on the front edges; then shoot forward like bullets from the force of my pull
This would have been no problem in a standard closet.
However, these closets were two rows deep. As I stepped into the closet to “de-plastic” the back row, I notice a bag I had missed in the front row. Yes I did. I grabbed it, and when I yanked the hanger, it predictably flew back then shot forward—straight into my eyeball.
There I stood, slightly bent at the waist and both hands tightly clasped over my eye and SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS! Roland, my husband of just a couple weeks came running. But I would not let go of my eye for him to see what had happened. I had no intention of removing my hands from that eye and my howls were the only verbal explanation he was receiving. The intensity of the pain was truly blinding.
Roland eventually managed to pry my hands off my eye, but I could only tolerate to open it for a split second. That was long enough for him to decide. We were off to the nearest emergency room.
I was still holding my hands over the eye when we got there. When I heard the nurse ask what happened, I took my hands down for a second to show her.
“What happened?” the nurse asked more vehemently. Roland started to answer and was immediately silenced. They wanted to hear it from me And on second thought they were going to take me to another room to tell them. No, he couldn’t come. He could stay right where he was.
I saw a police officer hovering in the background and understanding dawned. They thought he hit me. Of course, a twenty-something white female accompanied by a thirty- something black male, what other explanation could there be? They were giving me the security of not being pressured or influenced at all by his presence as I told my story.
I thought that they are never going to believe this.
I noticed a second police officer listened in as I told my story to the nurse who, was turning a sickly pale shade of green.
Staring at my eye she said she thought she was going to be sick. I asked why she was so upset. You see, I had not yet seen how my eye looked.
Fortunately, the nurse had no problem believing my story. She reported that she had cleaned her closets earlier that morning and did the very same thing I did—grabbing the plastic bags on her hangers and pulling as the hangers went flying back and then forward. So. there she sat repeating,
“I’m never going to do it again. I’m never going to do it again!”
While I had a big blood red contusion on the outer white area of my eyeball and one of the most glorious shiners you could ever behold. there was no permanent damage and only the slightest tiniest abrasion on the white (now bulging red) area of my eyeball. It was one of those things that looked and felt way worse than it was. I must admit it was humorous—for me at least—to walk into church the next morning and watch Roland fend off all the “what did you do to her?” accusations.
But why share this now with all of you? This fall, I was studying the Women’s Bible Study lesson on Psalm 9 and the second part of verse one says, “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”
But what had I just done that morning? I recounted this same story and other more atrocious things experienced at the same hospital. I focused only on the problems. Why hadn’t I, in my reminiscing, focus on what God had done for me?
He had spared me from losing my eye. One, I had closed the eye fast enough so that the major cut was on the lid and not on the eye. Two, it was on the outer white not on the iris or pupil. The doctors were clear about the difference these things made in the lack of having permanent damage. Three, it did not happen the day before when I was home alone. Roland was there to care for me. Four, the nurse, because she had just taken the plastics off her own hangers that morning, understood the truth of my words as well as their warning to her. God had been there in both the timing and in what had even happened to the nurse on duty.
Making this particular rut nothing more than a pebble in my road because I was hedged about with protection.
In the last few months I have been learning to view my past ruts differently. I am learning that even now years and decades later, I am not trapped in the ruts of my past responses. I have come to call God Abba and to look forward to talking to him. If you know me, you know I did not always view him as a kind and loving Abba but as a ruthless and cruel father to be avoided.
I have known God for fifty-five years, but many of those years were spent loudly and angrily challenging him about why would he ever identify himself as a man much less a father. And that speaks to the problems that arose from one of the biggest ruts in my road. However, I am learning that God indeed has loved me ever since I was very young. I see him working in my life and on my behalf before I even knew him. And he is showing me how a father should love—and that sets me free.
But those are stories to tell in other months, for other times. For now remember that when you know the truth, the truth will set you free, especially from unyielding ruts.