Thursday, June 30, 2011

Whose Messenger?


Sometime between midnight and morning, my howl sent Frank flying from bed. I knew what had happened, because it wasn’t the first time: I’d been stung by a scorpion, a nocturnal, nightmarish creature who had climbed into bed, uninvited. Frank quickly found and squashed him (her? it?) with a nearby shoe, while I applied a batch of baking soda paste to the swelling site on my ankle.

I must admit, it was not easy to fall back to sleep after being stung awake by (can I say it?) a "messenger of Satan." I imagine that Hell itself crawls with these vile creatures. These small armored monsters bear a vicious barb at the end of their lobster-like tails. Resistant to pesticides, they can enter through the smallest crevices in your home.

As we pondered God’s reasoning in crafting such a critter, Ben suggested that scorpions may eat pests (they don’t) or are prey for something beneficial (nope: black widows just love them). My thought? Scorpions are a physical reminder that true spiritual evil exists on earth. My finite mind and highly allergic body can imagine no other reason for their existence.

Twenty-four hours later, heavily medicated with Benadryl, Advil and a steroid injection, my foot was still swelling and I was in great pain. "This burning is unbearable!" I whined to anyone who dared approach me on the couch, where my foot sat propped up under an icepack. "It feels like my foot will pop!"

(When Ben heard this, he settled down next to me, watching. I told him, "It just feels like it will pop; it won’t, really." Disappointed, he returned to his book.)

On the third day, Matthew hugged me and gently remarked, "Mom, I think your foot has you feeling a bit cranky." I could understand his observation. I hadn’t slept well, between my intense fear of another scorpion attack, and the pain in my throbbing foot. I’d been instructing my sons from the couch, frustrated that I could not even make dinner or tidy up the living room on my own. Yes, I realized that I may not have been the most pleasant person to live with that weekend.

Matthew’s words stung, and brought me to my senses. In fact, that passage about the messenger of Satan makes it clear that God Himself allowed Paul’s thorn, for his spiritual well-being! So I sat down and started talking it out with God.

"I know this wasn’t outside Your control, Lord. I’m laying here because You allowed it. And because You are who You are, I know You have good plans for me in this. I have been complaining, instead of looking for Your purpose. My foot, my body, my time — my life — are YOURS, not mine! I will trust You with me." As I prayed, something inside relaxed. Indeed: God was still on his throne; no scorpion could topple Him.

While I couldn’t walk physically, I began walking with God as I sat on the couch. And where did we go? I had wonderful, extended conversation with my sons (which wouldn’t have happened if I’d been tackling my cleaning projects). I read a book that God used to give me insight into a relational conflict. And I had extra time to pray, as God brought people and needs to mind. Walking with God by faith (instead of by the sight of that scorpion and my inflamed foot) brought peace and purpose to my time on the couch.

All that I consider "mine" really belongs to God, anyway. So when He thwarts my plans with a "messenger of Satan," His plans are never thwarted.

For that, Lord God, how very thankful I am!