When is Your Appointment?
Over a blissfully free-from-work-and-school holiday break this winter, my eight-year-old daughter accidentally dropped a large can of beans on her big toe. (The ranch style beans with brown sugar that everybody loves.) Any other kid would have howled in pain and run immediately into the arms of a comforting parent. Instead, my stalwart child calmly walked to her bedroom and cried into her pillow. Once in control of herself, she put on her socks and shoes and limped back to her usual activities without telling anyone of the mishap.
Later in the day I asked her why she was wearing her shoes in the house. This was not normal but she told me that her feet were cold and gave me a look that means “don’t ask me again.” Recognizing the thunderclouds over her head and wishing to avoid contention I let it go at that.
Two days passed and she began limping rather noticeably. She continued to hide her injury until my husband and I physically pinned her down and looked at her foot. Once we got her sparkly tennis shoes and color-coordinated socks off, we unveiled a twice-the-normal-size, throbbing, purple, ghoulish toe.
I tried to keep my face calm but inwardly I was screeching and flailing my arms around. “Holy cats! How have you not been writhing on the floor in agony with that monstrosity?” was my thought.
When we told her we needed to go see the family doctor to have it checked out, huge tears began to run down her cheeks. “Oh baby, he’s just going to look at it. No shots.” I promised, hoping desperately not to be a liar. She didn’t say anything, just continued to look at me with those wide-open brown eyes that transmitted the fear she felt like an electric current.
The next morning I loaded her in the car and we drove to the doctor’s office. She sat quietly in the back seat and didn’t say a word as I told lame jokes trying to take her mind off what was coming. I could tell she was hurting and afraid of what was going to happen. A sad sigh would escape now and then and I could see the tears welling up in her eyes in the rear view mirror.
We arrived and after a miraculously short wait found ourselves in the small examination room with the doctor. “Wow, what happened to you?” he said with a smile. This was more than she could handle and finally collapsed into a sobbing mass on the table.
Once it was determined that the bone wasn’t broken and that infection and damage had not spread from the area, he told us that the pain was coming from pressure under the toenail and that it needed to be lanced. He would heat up a needle and make two small holes in the nail to let the pent up blood drain out.
That little girl was really brave as this was all going on. I stood up by her head and held her tight so she couldn’t see what seemed medieval torture transformed into modern medical practice.
As soon as the doctor pierced the nail blood began gushing out of her toe. This continued as he made the second hole and then applied pressure to finish the job off. Amazingly, there was almost an immediate reprieve from suffering on the patient’s side, although I was near hyperventilating. “Oh that feels better,” she said with relief in her voice. She was bandaged up by the nurse and we were sent home much happier. Over the course of several weeks the toe healed completely.
As I watched Elder Bednar’s powerful talk We Believe in Being Chaste in the latest General Conference, his closing words brought this event to my mind. He said,
All of us have experienced the pain associated with a physical injury or wound. When we are in pain, we typically seek relief and are grateful for the medication and treatments that help to alleviate our suffering. Consider sin as a spiritual wound that causes guilt or, as described by Alma to his son Corianton, “remorse of conscience” (Alma 42:18). Guilt is to our spirit what pain is to our body—a warning of danger and a protection from additional damage.
The guilt that comes from rebellion to God’s laws, as well as the pain caused by the hurtful actions of others, is like dropping a can of beans on our toe. It is painful and if not treated may spread damage to other parts of our soul. The problem is that all too often, instead of dealing with the guilt and unpleasant emotions that come from these situations, we do our best to cover them. We may wrap them up in sparkly accomplishments, deliberately not think about them, or frantically enfold them in destructive behaviors in an attempt to banish the sting.
As we avoid coming to the Savior the pain and pressure increase. Ignoring these thoughts and feelings does not allow Him to do what is needed to heal us. We limp around with a bruised and battered spiritual toe refusing to let anyone look at it. This is just what the adversary wants. It is a partial accomplishment of making us “miserable like unto himself” for “Lucifer wants us to be alone, in the dark, and without hope.”
Elder Bednar gives the key to ending our suffering.
From the atonement of the Savior flows the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt. However, this salve can only be applied through the principles of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and consistent obedience. The results of sincere repentance are peace of conscience, comfort, and spiritual healing.
Application of this balm of Gilead requires humility and faith, something many of us think we have in abundance but upon honest reflection may realize needs some work. We have to stop giving lip service to the Atonement and actually trust the Savior; we have to let him work in our lives every day. No more counterfeiting.
In the case of serious sin or damage Elder Bednar reminds us that our bishop or branch president is “the spiritual physician’s assistant” who is authorized to help us access the healing of the Savior. We must recognize that just as my daughter’s toe took time to heal after the initial treatment, so it will take time and effort for us to heal spiritually.
It might be terrifying to admit to someone else that you are a mess, that with all the incredible things the Lord blesses you with, you still struggle deeply to trust Him. But as in the case of an eight-year-old and a bean can, relief will come almost immediately as you allow the Savior to lance your wounds. It will be freeing and there are loving priesthood leaders prepared to help bind your injuries and strengthen your will.
The healing and love of the Atonement are for you and they are for me. So let’s be hopeful. Admitting weakness and coming to Christ can be scary, but that fear and pain is overcome with the love that pours down as you reach out to him. He yearns to heal and just taking the first step brings relief.
So we must ask ourselves, is it time to finally see the doctor?
Watch Elder Bednar’s talk here:
- What is the literal and symbolic significance of the Savior’s title The Great Physician?
- Why is confession to authorized priesthood holders so important as we repent from serious sin?