The Slap & The Bruise
BY SEAN TERRY | JUNE 28, 2021
I wish I could remember the last time I was slapped across the face. It would have made for a really fun illustration for this week’s lesson, but it was probably a long time ago. I am confident that I have never been slapped across the face by a woman, except maybe by my mom or sister. Those would be the stereotypical examples. I definitely deserved to be slapped in the face more than I have. Ironically, I probably have experienced the majority of my slaps across my cheek by my fellow male middle schoolers years ago as part of some strange endurance challenge while we were bored between classes.
It might be a good thing that a swift slap across the face is a rare occurrence. It should be pretty obvious why — it hurts! There is that sharp sting, followed shortly thereafter by the swelling, and undoubtedly a heaping helping of humiliation in tow. In addition the cheeks are very sensitive (both sets). And getting struck on one of them is much worse than on the forearm or shin.
Life is full of literal and metaphorical slaps to the face. Unexpected attacks against us that deeply wound and upset us. We have all experienced slaps: an infuriating betrayal by a friend, a traumatic accident or injury, the tragic death of a loved one, a devastating loss of a job, a destructive natural calamity, or a ruinous pandemic affecting every soul on earth. Unanticipated disasters such as these can ambush us and leave us reeling back in a state of shock. When I fell through my ceiling and cracked three of my vertebrae (I wrongly thought it was two, but it turns out I didn’t listen very good to the trauma doctor at first - because I was in a state of shock, you see), one of my first thoughts was, “I can’t believe that just happened to me!”
Fortunately, the slaps of life only hurt for a short time and then feel better. . . right?
We must remember that the real impact of trauma can lag. Shortly after the slap stops hurting the bruise will set in. The bruise is different, because the pain from the bruise lingers for a while. Slaps leave a red mark, but bruises leave a blue and yellow one. If this is what happens to our skin, imagine what happens to our hearts.
Have you ever noticed that crisis follows crisis? In 2015 my older brother Joe passed away. The first two weeks were very painful. However, it was about 4 months later that the reality of the loss really flipped my world upside down. I just did not feel myself anymore. Grief has a strange doppler effect that it is very difficult to navigate without help and support. Despite being a lifelong believer, I was not nearly as prepared for this kind of trial as I believed I was. Thankfully I had the wonderful Rosa Gialloreti and her Grief Share life group to guide me through that process. It took about a full year before I felt stable, exactly as long as many professionals in the area of grief had estimated. If no one had ever warned me about that timeline, I suspect my confusion would have made my pain much harder.
There was a similar breaking point that occurred a few weeks after my fall. Up until that point I had a fairly good attitude. But one night I was truly exhausted by the difficult recovery and invited the Lord to an all-night pity party. In His goodness, He showed up, but also left me to my tantrum till I eventually fell asleep.
I could withstand the slap, but could I endure the bruise?
Bruises should not be underestimated. Sometimes they are harder than the strike that produced them. For example, a lengthy medical issue leads to piling medical bills; a pandemic leads to hardships scattered throughout the economy; the loss of someone precious leads to a hole that sometimes can never be filled. The problems we face today can be more complicated tomorrow than they initially seem.
After the bruise develops we must be ready, because there is a temptation for bitterness and complacency to take root. The lingering frustration of our problems might cause us to accuse and question God. This is what happened to Israel in the desert. They made it out of Egypt, but were not prepared in their hearts for the long journey that still had to be completed.
1 Corinthians 10:1-10
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. . . . . Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness . . . do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
Slaps happen. They might be a test from the Lord to reveal His faithfulness in a time of crisis. But I believe the bruise is definitely a test. The bruise will reveal much more about our character than the slap. In this world we will have troubles, yet we must follow Christ’s example and not give in to the flesh that wants to act as the world does, disgruntled and resentful.
Philippians 2:14-15 NLT
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
James 1:2-4 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
P.S. One of my personally favorite projects CCC has ever done was the “Without Complaining” bracelets that we handed out several years ago. The challenge was to go 21 days without complaining once. I can attest that the experiment permanently changed my attitude about my attitude. And I proudly still own my bracelet to this day.