Finding forgiveness is bloody business

I cut my finger last Tuesday. No, I mean, I really cut my finger. Four stitches worth.

I had sharpened the little knife I like to use for cutting vegetables and I was really proud of its new razor’s edge. It just floated through all those fresh tomatoes I put into the tava, a wonderful Kosovar dish I had discovered earlier in the summer. I put the tava in the oven and I was ready to go to work on making preserves out of the big basket of peaches we’d gleaned from some friends’ tree. I hurriedly rinsed the knife, reached for the drying towel, looked down just in time to think, “Oops, knife blade is turned downward; it may cut a hole in the cloth.” It was at that precise moment that I realized with a yelp that, in my haste, I had not gotten my hand completely under the towel. So it was not the cloth that I cut a hole in, but the ring finger on my left hand.

I immediately wrapped the towel tightly around the finger and bounded upstairs to the bathroom where the first aid collection resides. I turned on the water, gently peeled the cloth away, and thrust my hand under the faucet. It hurt. and, it was pretty clear that a bandaid was not going to do the job. I rewrapped the towel firmly back into place and made my way back to the kitchen to clear away what I could—it was abundantly evident that I was not going to get to the peaches that evening. I posited every irrational hope that, when I returned to the upstairs bathroom, the bleeding would have abated when I removed the pressure. It didn’t. It was a pulsing geyser. I was beginning to feel queasy.

OK. How to get to the emergency room? Cynthia was out with the car and wouldn’t return for another hour and a half. Jon—he’s my friend and he lives just down the street. He wasn’t home. But his wife Diane was happy to take me to the hospital, with the understanding that she didn’t have to look at my cut finger.

At the hospital, the nurse poured an entire bottle of some kind of thick, clear antiseptic goop into a basin and instructed me to put my hand in it. OOOO-KAY. Now it really, REALLY hurt. I managed to stay upright long enough to see the blood saturate the solution, but of course as I watched, fascinated, at the darkening mess I began to get seriously woozy. About that time, the nurse noticed how dark the stuff had rapidly become, especially in contrast to my pasty, greenish, perspiring face, and said, “Here, we’d better get some pressure on that and try to stop the bleeding.” (I somehow had the mistaken idea that the stuff my hand was soaking in was going to slow down the flow of blood. He seemed like he knew what he was doing.) I decided I might ought to lie down. He said, “Sure, do whatever you need to do to not pass out.”

…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22) As I lay there on the emergency room table, I began to wonder about Jesus’ blood. I wondered about the scourging. And then, with no treatment of the lacerations inflicted by the whip, the crown of thorns, jammed and twisted down cruelly onto the head of Jesus with hateful intent. The blindfolding and punching; “Who hit you that time, Mr. Miracle?!” Did they break his nose? How much blood was there? And then carrying the cross, by that time covered with his own blood. Slippery with it. No wonder he fell. Besides the weakness and physical shock that resulted from loss of blood, walking on bloodied feet and trying to hold on to the wood of his cross with blood-slick hands certainly made falling down inevitable, not to mention the pain that must have wracked every cell of his body…and all for very public display…and the mental and emotional anguish of being the object of so much hate and violence. “…he became sin…” And then the actual crucifixion…hour after bleeding hour….

Several weeks ago, in talking with a spiritual guide, I shared what had become a nagging struggle with an angry, unforgiving attitude toward some important people in my life. My friend listened with understanding and sympathy. Then with reference to the Hebrews passage above, he gently and wisely encouraged me to introduce Christ’s blood into the thought process whenever the black rage began to take hold. And then, very gently and with authority, he assured me that God was eager to forgive me, even as I struggled to forgive others. I felt lightened.

In the days that followed, sure enough, the anger returned and as soon as it did, I imagined pouring blood on it, out of a bucket, in a shower, in a flood. Now, I certainly concede the power of imagination, and I have a fertile one. But, at the same time, I cannot deny the very real softening of my attitude in general and toward the people involved in particular. I began to experience a freedom of mind and a lightness of heart that have gained in intensity over the intervening weeks. Much more is going on here than mere”self talk.”

I am being much more careful with knives these days. I don’t like pain, and the sight of blood, especially my own, makes me queasy. Still, I can’t help being thankful for the experience, traumatic as it was. Having to deal with my own blood, even in a small way, transformed my thinking about the blood of Christ in much more concrete terms. At a time when a renewed experience of Jesus’ blood offered to gain forgiveness for me was and is transforming my life and relationships, a modest dose of the real thing was good for me. I wouldn’t recommend volunteering for any kind of injury, but, now that it has happened to me, I can’t deny the power of the experience. And, in some inexplicable way, I’m glad.

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4 thoughts on “Finding forgiveness is bloody business

  1. Can you say more about why imaging blood literally pouring out of a bucket–why this calmed your anger? Did it matter whose blood it was, or did you imagine it as Christ’s? Or as your own? Or just the fragility of life itself–did you juxtapose our core vulnerability over all the anger?

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  2. I just read a quote: “Anger is like drinking poison and hoping it will make the person you’re angry at sick.” Every time I think about that, it’s even more powerful.

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  3. Amy, you asked why the blood image helped my anger. I did intentionally imagine it as Christ’s blood, but I really can’t say why the anger dissolved. I think that maybe the reality of forgiveness to that extreme simply overwhelmed the smallness and pettiness of my refusal to forgive.

    Beyond that, I really do believe that something objective took place; something changed. I can’t explain it in objective terms or even describe the transformation very well beyond what I’ve done in the post–any more than I could explain or describe surgery or the healing process my finger has subsequently undergone. I know that my faith played a part in both events, but the larger role was God’s in one instance and the ER doctor’s in the other.

    Lori, your image of the poison may clarify the issues more completely than anything I’ve said. Thanks for the response.

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  4. Shortly after I last posted, I was reading Psalm 58, and was struck by these lines (verses 10-11): “The just will be glad when they see the corrupt punished; they will wade through the blood of the wicked. People will say, ‘The just really are rewarded; there is indeed a God who judges the world!'”

    Blood imagery can move in so many directions. It’s liquid nature, perhaps–and its significance.

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