Summer means long days lying in the sun, sipping lemonade, and swimming at the local pool or jumping waves in the ocean or snorkeling at the lake. At least, that’s what it meant when I was growing up.
But the summer I turned 10 years old, I almost missed out on my favorite activities.
I needed a cast on my leg, from the top of my thigh to my bottom of my ankle. Swimming was out. I was bummed.
But when I went to the doctor’s office to get the cast on, he shared some good news. He was going to use a new casting material, fiberglass. (I’m old; it was new when I was 10.) It would be lighter than plaster. But best of all, it could get wet.
In hindsight, I’m sure what he meant by “get wet” and what I understood by “get wet” were very different things. I thought he meant WET. I thought he meant I could swim with it on. Now, I’m sure he meant it wouldn’t melt if it got rained on or bath water splashed on it.
To make matters worse, it seemed like there were no intelligent adults in my life that summer. Strange, because I was surrounded by intelligent adults—bankers, engineers, teachers, college graduates. But none of them questioned me when I insisted the doctor said it could get wet, so I was going swimming.
It didn’t go too badly at first, just swimming in the pool. It took a long time to dry, but nothing bad happened. Then came a trip to the lake. Yes, I went swimming in the lake with a cast on my leg. But my biggest mistake, and when the adults must have had sunstroke or something, I went in the ocean—with a cast on my leg.
For a week I swam, jumped waves, laid on the beach, played paddle ball, did all the things a 10-year-old does at the beach. A few days in, my leg inside the cast started getting itchy. Those same sun-stroked adults came up with a plan. We went up to the shops on the boardwalk and bought a back scratcher.
Perfect. I could slide it down inside the cast and scratch away. It gave me some relief. But even when the scratcher pulled clumps of sand and sea gunk out of my cast, none of the adults thought to take me to the hospital to have the cast replaced. After all, I only had a few weeks left until it was time to get it off.
The day arrived. I couldn’t wait to get this smelly, itchy cast off. The doctor who had put it on was a little concerned when we told him I had done a lot of swimming over the six weeks.
He fired up the saw. Fiberglass was tough stuff! Little yellowish shards flew here and there as he cut through it. (Fiberglass didn’t come in colors then).
Finally, with one side sliced through, he pried it open. There was silence in the room, as the odor of weeks of trapped sea fodder filled our nostrils.
The doctor said, “I’ll be right back” and left the room. I looked at my leg.
Well, I couldn’t really see my leg. It was covered in sand, seaweed, and maybe a baby octopus. The condition of my leg was slowly revealed, as we peeled off things that should stay in the ocean.
It was a collection of welts and open sores. The doctor returned to the room with a blue ribbon, my award for having the ugliest cast he had ever seen.
It wasn’t until I became an adult that it occurred to me that the cast could have been replaced. Why didn’t someone, anyone, in my life suggest that? I don’t know. When I asked my mom, she just laughed, and said, “I never thought of that.” Really?
I guess it was because a doctor said, “six weeks in a cast.” It was an era when you didn’t question doctors. It might have been good to question what he meant by “wet.”
Of course, there is a spiritual lesson to be learned. Actually, more than one. There is “question everything,” “let’s do a word study,” or “ask for wisdom.”
But the one I want to focus on is how that cast was a picture of what my spiritual life sometimes looks like. I ignore things that are hurting me spiritually, maybe the amount of time I spend watching mindless TV shows or other forms of entertainment.
Or maybe I harbor anger or resentment and let it grow into bitterness. And I don’t always cut off the hurtful things before they do serious damage. I let the ugly stuff fester instead of getting it out of my life.
I need to use the wisdom God has given me and ask, “What’s the problem and how can I change?” And then I need to be willing to make the changes required.
I am thankful that my Father knows exactly what to do and has the power to change my heart, if I would only ask him.
“For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness. But for you, O Lord, do I wait. It is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Psalm 38:4,5,15
Lisa Radcliff is a writer, speaker, women’s Bible study teacher, and a 35-year volunteer youth worker, residing in Pennsburg, PA. She is a wife, mom, and mom-mom who loves God’s Word but also loves football, chocolate, shoes, and Maine. Her hobbies include quilting, shopping, cooking, and raising Seeing Eye puppies. You can reach her at www.lisajradcliff.com.