There is such a thing as radiantly pregnant, and let me assure you I wasn’t it.
On a scale of perfectly-happy to prepare-for-PTSD, the last trimester of my last pregnancy red-lined towards the traumatic. I had gestational diabetes, a baby with a “shadow” on his ultrasound that needed to be “monitored,” and a bad case of SPD (symphasis pubis dysfunction)–which meant the ligaments that were supposed to be keeping my pelvis intact had gotten too stretchy too quickly, causing searing pain for even innocuous actions like standing, walking, or turning over in bed. I was literally falling apart at the seams.
On top of this, my third trimester coincided with an eye infection and a double ear infection, and—being voluminously pregnant and allergic to the best and safest antibiotics—meant that the poor physician in Urgent Care was flummoxed as to how to treat this sniffling, sad patient who couldn’t hear, couldn’t walk, could hardly see, and couldn’t take anything much stronger than Tylenol. He did his best, and was alarmed when not 24 hours after his initial consult I was back in the waiting room. What was it this time? An inflammation in the sole of my foot, now too tender to bear any weight. Tutting quietly, he crouched down behind his magnifying glass to investigate.
A few minutes of digging revealed the problem: something small embedded in the deeper layers of my foot. Not a glass shard or a stone. Not a thorn or splinter. A HAIR. More particularly, a single eighth of an inch of my husband’s hair, burrowed with microscopic fury into my metatarsal. I had trimmed his hair on the weekend, unaware that I was dangerously barefoot. One small hair had escaped the clean-up sweep, clinging to my sole and working its way under my skin where, over the course of the weekend, it caused the surrounding tissues to redden and swell.
The doctor and I bent our heads over the unearthed hair fragment: what a tiny thing to cause so much discomfort! An entire person incapacitated by an eighth of an inch of hair!
But of course, this should come as no surprise. The tiniest things can have the biggest impact if they land in just the right—or the wrong—place. The whole idea of something “getting under our skin” presumes, really, that it is something small but deeply unsettling to us. Something trivial, even. The slightest of slights. The hair-triggers.
A friend asked me recently whether she could take communion in good conscience, given that she had an unresolved issue with a mutual friend of ours. I asked if she’d talked with the friend about it in an effort to work towards Matthew 18 reconciliation. She said no: it didn’t even feel like the issue was such a big one, it almost seemed too trivial to be worthy of a dispute or requiring discipline. It was hard to pin down why this niggled at her so much, she said, but the fact was that it did, and she was tender, inflamed, and in pain.
“Was it even worth dealing with?” she wondered. “Shouldn’t I just get over it?”
Yes, it was worth dealing with it; because no, she couldn’t just get over it. Not by ignoring it, anyway. The slight from our mutual friend may have been unintentional (or even well-intentioned, but misguided), but it had lodged under her skin and was causing pain. She needed a friend to help burrow in the tender area to help identify the niggle. We needed to draw it out and look at it, to name it and acknowledge that while small, it had caused damage. Only then could healing begin.
No matter how thick-skinned we may believe ourselves to be, small things can find their way beneath the surface. I believe God has made us such that, in the natural course of events, sometimes our bodies tenaciously expel the irritants and heal themselves. But not always. Sometimes something gets under our skin and niggles, and even though it’s small, it needs our attention. Sometimes it will take a couple of days of smarting tenderly before we realize this is not a run-of-the-mill irritant. Sometimes we’ll need help to find it. Sometimes it may take more discomfort and more time to deal properly with it.
But it’s still important because sometimes the question is not how big the issue was, but how big its impact was on us. One unkind rebuff, or one thoughtless rejection, or in my case—one tiny hair, can be debilitating if it lodged in just the wrong place and at just the wrong time, and in those situations time alone is not a healer. We need to do some digging.
And in the end, all of us walk a little easier when the things that got under our skin have been dealt with. Let the healing begin.