It was one of those days.
Trouble and strife slipped in uninvited.
It waits on the threshold of our lives and sneaks in where cracks appear in our defences, our walls are weak with vulnerability, our armour rusty from lack of use and a space is created to enable access.
I was laid weak with weariness, further depleted by infection, drooping with fatigue and more sleep-deprived than usual due to nights made hot and heavy with heatwave and frequent tossing and turning.
Going about my normal morning routine of assembling coffee when it scalded hot, found its way on to skin covering forearm and hand, splashed over dress, legs and feet, seeping and scorching.
Stilled by shock, having already alerted my OH of my debility a minute or so before as a pain spasm made me wince aloud.
Now, he heard a new urgency in my tone and came running.
He dealt with floor and hob while I ran limbs under soothing cold, pausing only to remove clothing and footwear.
Cold ice packs applied in rotation to stem the fire searing my right arm and left hand, which caught the worst of it, closely followed by aloe vera and lavender gel to soothe and aid healing.
Spills were mopped up, clothes changed, sandals wiped, coffee put in front of me as I tried to bring cup to lips with shaking hands.
Sitting stiff with nerves tingling painful, smarting senses alive, I felt washed with gratitude that the damage was less than anticipated and my momentary lapse in concentration was treatable with first aid at home rather than necessitating a hospital visit.
Here was God’s grace in action in preventing worse trauma.
And as I sat with throbbing, burning pain, I thought of how easily we can bring stinging pain to another life by ruining of reputation, slander, misunderstanding and gossip. Scalding deep. Wounding.
We may also know someone who specialises in doing that to others. I do. She’s a near neighbour who takes the concept of ‘neighbourhood watch’ to a whole new level.
Seemingly oblivious to her own faults and failings, she exaggerates and freely points out those of others. Or it may be your property that has flaws (real or imagined) which she reminds you of regularly while ignoring her own.
I’d never thought I had enemies until I realised that one who irritates and annoys me (rather like a stinging nerve) can be counted as such.
She makes me (and my OH) flare up, see red and feel heat rise within.
We may even harbour people like that under our own roof, perish the thought.
So this neighbour from hell…(literally?) …well, certainly a great provoker and irritant…has made life very trying at times.
Her words may set other lives afire in the wrong way but she is just as needy of the cooling waters of grace as anyone else is, maybe more.
And it’s so often the case that their own unhappy lives or painful situations can drive people to try to destroy the good in others.
They can become self protective to an alarming degree. Seeing faults in all around yet none in themselves.
We too have tongues lit like matches that can set a forest alight when we speak inadvisedly about others.
A word out of our mouths can heal and bless, or by our speech we can ruin a reputation, turn harmony to chaos, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it.
Jesus asks us to give a drink to our enemies if they thirst (and who doesn’t thirst for the living Christ even if they are unaware of it?) and to be light for others.
This is not necessarily how we would respond instinctively. We tend to fear that which feels strange to us. Yet we needn’t.
Because all of us are reliant on the saving grace, deep forgiving love of God and the transforming power of His Spirit working to change us from the inside out.
And if it takes an encounter with near boiling liquid (as happened to me) to make us more aware of His grace, then God can use any and everything to help us to live and love more as Jesus does.
I am healing. Recovering from the shock I had. A wake up call of sorts, perhaps? A warning to keep my guard up against the enemy of our souls? Maybe.
Whatever it was, I am grateful for the lessons it has taught me. There is so often a blessing to be found the other side of a brick wall.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be set on fire by God’s Spirit, to blaze fierce with His love and compassion, burn bright with His grace rather than be consumed by irritation, anger and frustration or become burnt out and weary of well doing.
Let us lay down those things that consume us which will one day be consumed by God’s purifying fire.
Let us lay hold of the soothing, calming waters of grace and sprinkle, yes, even pour and flood them on others; be a river, an outpouring to refresh and heal wounded souls.
Over to you: