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Infection | Church Wounds Part 4

I walked up to the house and let myself in. Where once I would have rang the doorbell, waiting to be greeted by familiar faces and hospitality, this time I entered emptiness. The walls were void of photos. The furniture, gone. The family, too. 

We had already helped load the moving truck and other vehicles. We drove to a new city and helped unload. All that remained was a final cleaning before the new owners took possession. Because I wasn’t three hours away, I volunteered. With broom in hand and a shaky breath, I stepped over the threshold. 

The house echoed eerily. There were no friendly voices or conversations. Only me--my breath and footsteps disturbing the oppressive silence. And then my sobs. I couldn’t control them, as much as I wanted to. I wept in guttural cries, one after another after another as I swept up the final traces that proved my pastoral family---my friends---had once roamed the halls and filled the home with life.


Image by HeungSoon at Pixabay
Like my sobs, the healing process for skin wounds is also involuntary. As soon as the skin is wounded, hemostasis begins, starting what’s called the “cascade of healing.” I really like the word picture that comes to mind with cascade of healing. It means the stages overlap, beginning with clotting, moving to defensive mode, proliferation, and finally maturation.

With this particular post, I want to focus on the defensive/inflammatory stage. The goal of this second stage is to destroy bacteria and remove debris. There are all kinds of amazing things that happen within this particular stage--neutrophils enter the scene to destroy bacteria, macrophages fill in after neutrophils leave and continue cleaning debris while also secreting growth factors and proteins that attract immune system cells to the wound to facilitate tissue repair--and if all goes well during this phase of approximately 4-6 days, the wound bed is prepared for growth of new tissue.

But what if things don’t go quite right and infection develops? In that case, there will be increased inflammation and additional tissue damage. And, the healing slows. Something that stuck out to me as I processed this information is the realization that a wound can’t heal--can’t scar over--if there’s an infection.

One time my daughter got bit by a pet at the home of friends. In the moments after, we got her calmed down and the wound cleaned and bandaged. But for whatever reason, days later an infection developed. It began by looking “funny.” It started changing color and oozing. We went to the pediatrician and he gave us medication to help the healing process. 

When we’re talking church wounds (any relational wounds!) we’d be remiss to avoid talking infection. And talking infection is going to lead us to introspection. Because no matter the way we got the wound, it’s our responsibility to be on guard for infection. I know it is always easier to take the victim route, as if we have no part to play, no choice in the matter. That’s partially correct: we don’t have a choice for how people around us act. But we do have control over how WE react.

There are many types of infections that can set in to our spiritual wounds, so please, if you have deep wounds going, pray for God to reveal any infections you might have. But for our purposes here, I want to use Ephesians 4:31 as our list of possible infections: 


“Let all bitterness and wrath 
and anger and clamor 
and slander be put away from you, 
along with all malice.”

Bitterness
In Eph 4:31, bitterness means hatred. It’s poison. I know for myself, I am susceptible to bitterness. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember my battle with the victim mentality (read more). All too often bitterness comes at me in the form of justification. My church wound was no different. On the heels of my grief came the temptation of justification that would lead to bitterness. After we left, a woman called me. I believe she meant well, but when I didn’t capitulate, she retaliated by a loosing a cloaked accusation: “What, do you WANT our church to close?” Overall my answer to that is no, but there have been moments when I indulged that particular result. I have to be very careful about bitterness seeping in and taking root, and I have learned to pray in trial that God will protect me from bitterness in my grief.

Wrath
Wrath, as used in Eph 4: 31, means “passion; hot anger.” It indicates an outburst of agitated emotion. I can be pretty go-with-the-flow, but I can also be a fighter. Sometimes I can be fiery. I’ve come to realize that justice is very important to me. I think I’ve seen so many situations that haven’t been resolved with justice that it now makes my blood boil very quickly. This church wound fell into that category. “Don’t you see, God?” “It feels like you lost this one, God!” “I don’t understand, God!” And in this perceived lack of justice, I wanted to invoke some lightning bolts. I had to quickly repent of this. It wasn’t right. I’m glad God is sovereign and that He is in charge. Vengeance is not mine. It’s not yours either. 


Beloved, never avenge yourselves, 
but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19

Vengeance is mine, and recompense, 
for the time when their foot shall slip; 
for the day of their calamity is at hand, 
and their doom comes swiftly. Deuteronomy 32:35

For we know him who said, 
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” 
And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” Hebrews 10:30

Anger
Anger is tougher for me to discern in my heart, because in scripture there’s also a thing called “righteous” anger. However, I don’t want to overuse that excuse in my own life, holding onto anger that may not actually be righteous. For example, a little before our passage in Ephesians, 4:25-27 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

Apparently we have sin-filled anger and righteous anger. Even if I am dealing with righteous anger in this case, I HAVE let the “sun go down” on it, which means I’m not altogether exonerated. Too much time has passed, and the waters are muddied. I am confident God will continue to address this in my heart. He WILL finish the work He started. I can see something good here though: this situation has given me the desire to understand the differences in anger, and I am taking steps to learn more. That’s never a bad thing.

Clamor
Where I expect infection to come from bitterness, wrath and anger, clamor was interesting to me. When I first saw the definition uses the word cry, I thought, 'oh man, I cried a lot! What about all the Psalms where people cry out? What about lament?' But as I further studied, I realized clamor has a different feel, it’s a loud noise--akin to a raven’s cry--of controversy. This isn’t weeping. This is a piercing. It seems to be a loud stirring up of controversy. Am I trying to get other people on my side by clamoring? Are you? A good question to ask.

Slander
The ESV uses the term slander, but the KJV says “evil speaking.” In context of this passage it is used as “railing.” I’ve heard of the saying, “to rail against someone.” Our common English usage of the saying means “to attack with harsh, often insulting language” or “to complain loudly or violently about someone or something.” Even though our tongues are small, they sure can start some big fires. Is mine? Is yours?

Malice
Malice has to do with a desire for ill-will or injury toward another person. Am I glad if something bad happens to someone? Are you? It’s good to run a heart-check here.

At this point, we’ve come to the end of the list Ephesians gives to believers for things to put away from us. It is weighty. After writing this piece, I found myself on my knees asking the question Jesus posed to the lame man in John 5. Do I want to be healed? If we’re harboring these things from the list in Ephesians (among other possibilities) our wound will become infected, which in turn will slow down the healing process. If infection is left to continue, our wounds won't heal. If we think of the progression of infections in skin wounds, do we really want that mess in our hearts? While self-examination is difficult, it is also vital to our health. Ask God for wisdom in determining bacteria. He will be faithful to reveal our infections. It might be worth asking a few friends for help, too. And remember, if you are in Christ, there is no condemnation: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2) The goal within introspection is for us to have wounds that heal, not wounds that fester. To do that, we need a healthy wound bed that’s prepared for the growth of new tissue.  


MORE IN THIS SERIES:
Infection | Church Wounds Part 4
Scars | Church Wounds Part 5

Part Four Sources:
Biblical word definitions - Blue Letter Bible

Wound stages:
http://www.shieldhealthcare.com/community/popular/2015/12/18/how-wounds-heal-the-4-main-phases-of-wound-healing/



Image by Alanyadk from pixabay


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Writer's Note: Because I anticipate this series to be emotionally taxing for me, I am not sure how long it will take for me to write and publish the pieces. I ask for your patience with the process! And as always, you're more than welcome to subscribe to my blog for notifications on newly published pieces.

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