A couple of days ago I noticed that I had a stone in my shoe. (pictured above). The thing is that I didn’t notice it when I first put my shoe on. Of course, it was there, just in a place that tucked it away, hidden in a place, probably towards the edge where it could sit without causing me any discomfort.
As I moved throughout the morning, this small stone worked its way under the sole of my foot. I wouldn’t say it was uncomfortable, but noticeable. Rather than taking the time to sit down, remove the shoe and tip out the stone, I continued to walk, doing that strange dance that one does, trying to shake the stone to the edge again where it wouldn’t irritate me anymore.
This had limited success – the stone would indeed move, but was soon back under my foot, irritating me.
The only way to permanently sort the problem was to stop and remove it completely.
Each time I do that, I remember how blessed I am that I don’t suffer from leprosy. I can hear you think, whoa, that escalated quickly. How did we get from stones in the shoe, to leprosy? The thing is that one of the symptoms of leprosy is loss of feeling, especially in the extremities like hands and feet. I you can’t feel a stone in your shoe, it is highly unlikely that you will ever stop to remove it. If you don’t, eventually that tiny stone will cause an abrasion, which can easily become infected which also won’t be felt or treated. Left alone, this will obviously lead to major problems.
All of the above made me think about sin.
Sin has a habit of sitting there unnoticed for a while, only raising its head every now and again. It isn’t something you do all the time, just when your guard is down. Perhaps when you are tired or stressed or maybe even quite comfortable and think you have it all together. At the beginning, it is quite easy to shake it off, push it to one side and get on with life. The problem is that if it isn’t dealt with properly when it is first noticed, it will return. Have you ever noticed that once you become aware of a stone in your shoe the time, even when you do manage to shake it out of harm’s way for a bit, the frequency at which you notice it increases as time goes on? So too with sin – it will be there briefly at first, but undealt with returns more and more frequently.
The problem is that if we don’t take time to deal with sin at its root, and completely remove it through repentance and through crying out to God for forgiveness we will find that we begin to lose any feeling of remorse, guilt or shame for the sin. We begin to act like we have spiritual leprosy – no feeling at all towards the thing that is putting distance between us and the Father. Sin that continues when we get to this stage will quickly lead to serious problems, all of which we will not notice until it is too late. Once we begin to suffer like this, the healing process will be prolonged and painful. We may even lose things that are dear to us along the way.
It was once said, that if we give the devil and inch, he will take an inch. That is all he needs to begin to work into our lives, taking initially insignificant control, and slowly causing damage.
How do we remove the small stones of sin from our lives?
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
Drawing near to God can feel tricky, especially when we know there is sin in our lives. We might feel that there is simply too big a gulf between us and the Father – the truth is that even if it feels like miles and miles, we have travelled away from Him, it only takes one step to come back. We can convince ourselves that the tiny stone is actually an entire beach of pebbles. We don’t know which to deal with first.
The thing I found with the stone in my shoe is that the thing that was irritating my foot, that had begun to become a bigger issue as the irritation continued, was in fact very, very small. I’m not suggesting for a second that individual sins are insignificant, just that it is important to recognise that left unchecked it will only get bigger. Our heads have a habit of inflating the size of a problem so that we don’t deal with them. As with any health problem whether physical, emotional or spiritual, early intervention is the key.
Don’t leave it until the damage needs major treatment. Stop the first time you notice it. Deal with it then.