When is Your Appointment?

[ 12 ] Comments

by Brenda

Sickies.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?
photo by: Monica Holli

About Brenda

Brenda (Truth, Beauty, & BLT’s) is the mother of four tremendous children and wife to a very patient and witty man she lovingly calls “Buns”. She enjoys flying kites, thinking about things that make her brain hurt, and is pretty good with a slingshot. She spends her time searching for truth, beauty, and humor wherever she can find them.

12 Responses to When is Your Appointment?

  1. Julia says:

    What this talk does not address, and what continues to be ignored, is that some “physicians assistants” are not healers, offering the healing of the Atonement. In my case, I told my bishop, less than 24 hours after I had been raped, what had happened, and asked him what I should do. I was 15, still had a very black and white view of the world, and I really considered telling the bishop to be the same as telling Christ. I went to that appointment still bruised and torn from the rape, with physical and emotional pain that rivaled each other.

    I now know, both from subsequent church leaders, LDS and non LDS therapists, and rape support groups, that everything my bishop told me (and didn’t tell me) that day is the opposite of what the Savior would have done or said. I was told that the rape was my fault, that it would take time to repent, but that by telling no one of the rape or the disciplinary action the bishop was taking, that my unofficial probation would be shorter. I wasn’t told to tell the police. I was told not to tell my parents, anyone at school, and was told my bishop was the only one I should talk to about what had happened.

    I had a miscarriage, about 12 weeks after the rape, while I was at a non-member friend’s house. She was the only other person who knew I had been raped, because she found me afterward, crying in the bathroom, my clothes ripped and my legs bloody. It was her sweats I wore home from the debate tournament. After that, even though she was three years older than me, she invited me over for dinner after speech and debate practices, and to spend the weekend with her every few weeks. I felt guilty talking to her about it, (since the bishop said not to tell anyone) so I always waited for her to bring it up. My gratitude to her, and her mom, has never been properly expressed. She moved before my suicide attempt, which is when I finally started talking about so many things that I had never had the courage to talk about.

    The point of my comment is not that people shouldn’t talk to their bishop about bad things that have happened to them. We do need to recognize that they are men, and most of the time they do not have any training in how to determine how to best help someone who has been traumatized. Even the best bishops, who have some professional experience in counseling, and who want to do the right things, need to have it reinforced that their first response to anything that might be a crime is to encourage the person to go to the police and to see a mental health professional. We also need to make sure that teenagers understand the difference between sex that is sinful (entered in to voluntarily) and sex that is sexual assault or rape (when saying “No” is ignored or being physically overpowered against your will.)

    As a 15 year-old, I accepted that since I had been kissing the boy earlier in the day, that what happened several hours later was my fault, because I didn’t fight until I was dead. That was reinforced by the scriptures I was assigned to read and talk about with my bishop, and the discussion on rape in the Miracle of Forgiveness. It took almost 15 years to finally have a church leader I trusted enough to talk about those months, and how I became convinced that I was damned to Outer Darkness because of my weekly talks with my bishop during that time.

    I hope that more bishops are truly being Physicians Assistants. As a mentor for rape and incest victims, I know that there are still young women and young men being told the same things that I was, when I was raped. I would love to hear some experiences from readers who have had experiences with bishops who have made a huge positive difference in their lives.

    • SilverRain says:

      Julia, thank you for sharing your experience and the pain you had to traverse. Thank you, also, Brenda for the OP. I think that together they illustrate the situation in a world that is filled with so much imperfection and heartache.

      Julia, your experience wasn’t solely a spiritual one. You were attacked spiritually, physically, legally, and emotionally. Much like a cadre of doctors called in to perform delicate repairs on a traumatic injury, your situation requires doctors for each of those types of injuries. The bishop, a medical doctor, the police and your friends and family should have all been involved in your healing. It is tragic that you were isolated from some of those by your beliefs and the advice of a (hopefully) well-meaning bishop who overstepped his area of authority.

      One aspect of mortality is that we must all learn to mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who need comfort. We are called as disciples of Christ to minister to the sick and afflicted, often without have the least clue what we are doing. Fortunately, the Atonement covers and heals well-meaning mistakes as well as sin from which we repent.

      I hope that you have been able to apply His grace to your life, and find the strength to stand up from your terrible circumstances and apply what you have learned in helping and serving those around you who may be living through similar circumstances.

      Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how much I want to help, and how little capacity I have. But those who have overcome pain and sorrow have a place by the side of Jesus. I believe this.

    • Brenda says:

      Julia, thank you for sharing your story. It is a testament to the strength of your spirit that you have been able to take your heartbreaking experiences and come to a place where you help others in similar situations. It is the hallmark of a true disciple of Christ. You asked to hear from those who have had positive experiences and I am one of those.

      In early adulthood, I came out in open rebellion against my parents, the Lord and everything else I knew to be true. This was the result of long-term family issues. My behavior led me to a very dark place and I came close to ending my life. It was through the loving guidance of a dear bishop that I was able to repent, find the help I needed, and slowly begin to heal. He was the key person who put me back on the path that has led to a life full of light. I’ll be forever grateful to him.

      Of all the priesthood leaders I’ve known, all of them have felt the tremendous weight and responsibility of their callings and were aware of their inadequacies. I know that in my limited experience I’ve never come across one who wanted to create additional harm and tried to listen to the Spirit in their decisions. Even with that as Silver Rain said this is a world filled with imperfection.

      I know that over the past recent years Bishops have received training and resources as well as access to counselors for cases of abuse and crime but I would like to know if any of our readers know how extensive that training is and what the protocols are? From what little knowledge I have on the matter Church leadership has been trying to improve in these areas for some time.

      In all of trials and tears of our mortal life I thank God for the sacrifice and atonement of His perfect son. It covers all pain and is the only way we can become whole again. My hope is that you have found peace in His love.

  2. Michelle says:

    “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.”

    I think it’s interesting to see these two possible coping mechanisms side-by-side. We sometimes demonize the second group of people but celebrate the former. It’s a profound thing to come to realize your need for a Savior and His healing power.

    SilverRain, I loved your analogy of needing various experts to heal from the kind of trauma Julia described. Julia, my heart goes out to you and I hope you have found the kind of help and support SR talked about, even though you didn’t get what you needed as a youth.

    • Brenda says:

      With either of the types of coping we are simply saying to the Lord “I can do this on my own. I have no need of you.” And it is so true that while one receives accolades and the other scorn they are coming from the same motivator and producing a similar internal result. Humility is so difficult and I wonder if the accomplishment group may have even a more difficult time getting there since no one is telling them they need help?

  3. Julia says:

    Michelle and SilverRain-

    I completely agree that it takes multiple physicians, nurses, and mental and spiritual counselors. I wish I had known and understood that I could ask for more, that I didn’t have to make a promise that felt wrong. I wish I had understood that I could find love and help from other people who had walked my path.

    The night I was admitted to the adolescent psych ward, I had already had two ambulance tides, over eight hours in the ER, and I was ever more ready to give up than I had been earlier in the day. It was an LDS psychiatric nurse, who had both the gift of the Holy Ghost and the training to help her to get through to me. After assuring me that rape is not the fault of the victim, that I could cry as much as I wanted, and letting me know that does not want us to die, even if we are raped, she left with my copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness, and I finally started forgiving myself for being alive, and let me cry for hours and hours.

    She was the main nurse assigned to me during the two weeks I was there. She kicked my father out if a “family meeting” to decide to make sure I was safe, and all the staff backed him up when I didn’t want to know. When I wanted a blessing, but not from my father or from members of my ward/stake, she got permission for one of the psychologists and a pharmacist (both LDS) to perform it, with my mom attending, in the hospital’s chapel. In the blessing, I was directed to seek out help, in all its forms. I was also directed to always look for those who needed the same support and love, that I needed.

    The words of that blessing have come back to me many times in my life. At times, I have been reminded me that I should look for help, and that I need to be sure I’m not missing resources because they don’t fit in the traditional LDS spectrum of options.

    Over and over, I have been reminded of the second part of my blessing. As I have been praying and deeply meditating about what it means to be “looking for those who need the same support and love that I need,” I have learned a lot.

    The biggest impact is in how I understand my temple covenant, to give all that I have, to The Lord. I understand that we each have spiritual gifts, and that our Heavenly Parents expect us to develop and use them to help others. It has very little to do with tithing, and instead has to do with opening my heart, and following promptings to share some of the ugliest days of my life, so that others don’t feel so alone.

    For anyone who is interested, I wrote this post, after having one of those promptings.

    http://www.poetrysansonions.com/2013/03/my-mormon-perspective-that-day-all.html?m=1

    • Michelle says:

      I am so sorry for what you have been through but grateful to both see how heave had compensatory blessings for you through that nurse and how you are being to use, consecrate, your experiences to help others.

    • templegoer says:

      Michelle, I am so sorry for your experience. My own daughter went through a similar circumstance, and the Bishop’s influence has stayed with her over many years, leading her to think that she should not speak with us as her parents, who would have responded very differently. We have now been working on this for some years, but it has driven a wedge between us as she holds the church, and by association us, responsible for her terrible suffering. My fury knows no bounds.
      I am still praying for that miracle to walk into her life and act in a truly therapeutic manner. We still don’t know what happened, only that she has experienced some sort of sexual assault that has overshadowed her ability to enjoy appropriate relationships. We take every opportunity we can to communicate both our love and God’s, and she always seems surprised by both the tenderness and mercy she sees in us and by extension, in God’s dealings with his children, it is as if the only internal model she can have now of God has become punitive. We have had many conversations about the responsibility for sexual assault always being upon the perpetrator, but she has received another message and in her vulnerable state this is what has been internalised.
      You are living the counsel you have been given, and my experience has been that there is always a loss of growth when we do not face the truth of our less than perfection. I love Ether 12:27 that teaches us that we will be faced with our weaknesses as we come to Christ, and that these can be turned into strengths. This very much extends to my family relationships, and I try to approach them with integrity-part of that integrity may involve confusion and inability, and I have always taught my children that there are many sources of truth and sustenance, but they all come from God if they edify or nourish us.
      You remind me that it is important that I press forward with integrity, and state my truth, and that this is often the greatest gift we can give to each other.

  4. Bonnie says:

    I was inspired during Elder Bednar’s talk that mortality makes us fragile and vulnerable – both when we err and when we are erred against. Several talks brought this theme home to me, that the Atonement is perfectly just in that it pays for us and pays us back for the inequalities mortality brings. Both the essay and comments bring that out: we are hurting, and often tired, and few escape. Elder Holland’s words, “We’re exhausted,” have haunted me. Many, many people are. It’s the last days. The world is exhausting.

    I am thrilled that we are blessed with the companionship of One who knows, who has descended below all of this, and that we have the great and humbling privilege to succor one another as physician’s assistants and nurses and therapists of all colors and stripes. Ultimately, if we press forward with hope, we find healing, through one healer’s assistant or another. I hope that all who were within the sound of Elder Bednar’s voice were inspired that with the over 30,000 local units providing a priesthood leader who is called as a judge in Israel (30,000 – let that number sink in), so many people have a local physician’s assistant who is doing is almighty best to bring souls to Christ. Paired with that is over 30,000 local female leaders with a similar stewardship, and over 30,000 local councils dedicated to the care of those in their stewardship. It’s quite amazing when you think about it, occasional shortfalls notwithstanding.

  5. Anon says:

    It is so difficult to find that there are people in positions of trust who are flawed. It happens everywhere, not only in the instances of bishops misguided counsel. I was told by a bishop that a sexual assault was my fault, and received church disciplinary action because of it. It has taken many years to realize how wrong that was. Since then I have had bishops try to be kind and helpful, only to give me inadequate counsel. BUT – I have continued to have faith in God’s pattern, and made small attempts to get to know subsequent bishops, to know about him and his ability to help me before trusting him with something large and important. People are fallible. God is not. His pattern of stewardship is one that we don’t live up to because of our mortal imperfections, but that does not mean God doesn’t love us or we should not seek to repent through proper channels.

    Julia, I am so sad about what you went through, I am so very sorry. It seems that God put key people in your path, to help you in desperate times. So even if the bishop didn’t have the skills to help you, others did. I feel that happened for me too. I too seek help outside the church, and I don’t think that is anything bad. We seek for good, where ever we can find it. My non member therapist is a huge blessing in my life, one of many people leading me to Christ. I am glad you are still here, Julia, grateful for those special strong people who truly helped you heal, and I wish I could give you a hug.

    One of the things those experiences taught me is how vital it is to perform my callings in the way God would have me do it, not the way I want to do it. And I also learned that bishops are given a calling that they can’t ever perfectly fill, but I can be willing to receive what good they do have. I joke with my friend that I have a bishop aversion, it is a complicated relationship for me because of my poor relationship with my own father as well as those past issues. But I keep trying, I respect them for their call, for their willingness to serve the Lord, but cut them some slack as imperfect men, realizing that they don’t have all of the answers to my questions and problems.

    If I remember correctly The Miracle of Forgiveness has some great counsel about the difference between being forgiven by the Lord, and being forgiven by the church (which is the bishop’s role). Both are necessary, but different processes, somewhat independent of each other.

  6. Seriously says:

    16 years ago, I was told by a bishop that my husband’s porn addiction was because I wasn’t giving him enough sex and wasn’t being daring enough.
    We were NEWLYWEDS, deep down I knew he was wrong, but it still messed with my head a lot!

    Your situation is obviously much more serious and heart breaking, but there are morons out there called as bishops. I pray you find the peace you are looking for.

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