Wild growing bushes in the woods (or at the end of a grandparents’ driveway) can do a fair amount of damage to a four-year-old. During our family vacation last Christmas, our son took a tumble over the handlebars of his new bike and landed smack in the middle of one. From inside the gnarly branches we heard him howl, his tears flowed, and we came running.
Frankly, I expected far more visible damage than what we actually found. Instead of blood, bruising, or broken bones, the poor guy was covered in microscopic splinters. They were embedded in both of his hands, all over his face, and on his small pouting lips. We knew the offending intruders couldn’t stay lodged beneath the surface; they had to be removed. Despite my son’s pleas, my husband and I held him down and carefully examined every inch. One by one we located, prodded, and plucked out. We did so out of love.
As he kicked and screamed and pleaded for us to stop, I caught a glimpse of myself in his protest. I am often the one pulling away from my Heavenly Father as He goes about His work of fixing me to look more like His son. If it hurts at all, rather than trusting Him, I figuratively kick and scream and push back against His hand. I rarely consider pain as necessary part of the process.
Take It Out, Take It Out, Remove It
In , Jesus tells a parable about a man with a plank in his eye who he reprimands for judging another man with a saw-dust size speck in his eye. Jesus says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the plank from your brother’s eye.” Maybe the plank-eyed guy didn’t start off with a full-blown plank in his eye. Maybe his plank began as an insignificant piece of sawdust just like the one in his brother’s eye.
Be it sawdust or a plank, wood of any size doesn’t belong in the eye. The sin Jesus described -whether big or small in nature – didn’t belong in either brothers’ life. Sin shouldn’t be something we dismiss or tolerate in our daily lives. Ongoing or habitual sin is a significant obstruction to the holiness God calls us too and while we may try to ignore it, God can’t and doesn’t. Just as I imagine extracting either sawdust or planks from ones’ eye would be painful, removing sin and unbelief from our lives can also be painful.
When we give up worldly comforts, the hope of an unfulfilled dream, or other idols of the heart, we feel them tug as they rip free from our flesh. But, God is not unkind to remove what does not belong. Instead of allowing us to entertain sin or embrace idols that will ultimately lead to our destruction, he calls a spade a spade and planks, sin. The plucking of planks from our eyes and the snatching of splinters from our hearts is for our healing.
Just Hold Still
Almost a year has passed since the great bicycle-tree debacle. No longer are the ends of driveways or utilizing the brakes on bicycles taken for granted. The intentional launching of boys into bushes is discouraged. Despite our vigilance in these areas, we’ve experienced more splinters in our little people than I’d like. With each successive splinter-session, you’d think pinning down and plucking out would get easier. It doesn’t.
Identifying sin and working to remove it will never be an enjoyable activity. We will likely continue to experience discomfort as we are refined by the Holy Spirit. It is the pain of death; of dying to ourselves and learning to live as Christ. There is joy in our pain though. We know God is refining us because He loves us and desires for us to look more like His son. His process of refinement isn’t conditional, it’s merciful.
Jesus’ blood atoned for every speck and plank we’ve ever had and ever will have in the future. We no longer need to fear the consequences of our unrighteousness – we trust in His grace! We are seen by God as fully righteous through Jesus. One day, neither we nor God will see the obstructions in our eyes or the eyes of his beloved children because our planks and specs will forever be removed when our faith is made sight. On that day, all we will see is Jesus in the fullness of His glory. Until then, would you just hold still long enough for God to remove your splinters and planks?
What’s in your eye today? What do you need to take out or ask God to remove? Do you believe the painful process of removing sin is worth the glory God receives through your obedience? Would you thank him for healing you through Jesus?
42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (ESV)