By Kelly Smith
I don’t think about my ring-finger toe much anymore. The pinky toe guards it, so it doesn’t get rubbed by too-tight shoes. Tucked safely away from the oft-stubbed big toe, it’s spared from my clumsy steps. But one season I thought of my unassuming digit almost constantly throughout the day.
I walked down the slope of my front yard wearing pink, rubber clogs (reserved only for yard work, in case you’re worried about my fashion sense). I planted my foot atop a sweet gum ball, also known as pokey balls around my house. My weight and momentum culminated in an uncontrolled slide inside my clog. My innocent toe slammed into the toe box and cracked.
I work in rehab, so I knew the fix for my broken toe was rest and time. I buddy taped it to keep it straight. I stuck to comfortable shoes. Instead of pounding out miles on the treadmill, I opted for less joint impact on the stationary bike. Even with all my adjustments, my toe hurt every day. Until it healed, it was always on my mind.
Pain demands attention. It’s a gift, really. Without pain we wouldn’t realize we need rest, medicine, or a change in our behavior. When pain results from a misstep like mine, one wrong move shifts your focus to an insignificant body part.
Because of grace, we often miss the pain of our sin. While on the cross, Jesus endured unimaginable suffering on our behalf. He accepted the punishing pain of our sin so we could know freedom from it. With the price paid, we get to go on our merry way.
Without the pain of sin, it’s easy to forget how depraved we can be. Our postmodern world prefers relative morality where the “I’m okay, you’re okay” philosophy trumps right and wrong. Insignificant trespasses such as gossip, lust, and jealousy go unnoticed. We often joke about it, posting snarky memes with self-deprecating commentary. Relying on grace to cover all, we don’t feel the distance sin creates between us and our Savior.
The truth is, when we fall, Jesus takes the blow. Our slips, trips, and jumps show up as scars across his back. While we don’t always feel the consequences of our unholiness, he felt every bit of it.
In his letter to the church, James asks us to feel the impact of our sin: “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy” (James 4:9 NLT). When was the last time you shed a tear over your sin? Do you allow yourself to feel the pain it caused?
In his novel The End of the Affair, one of Graham Green’s characters prays, “Dear God, if only you could come down from your Cross for a while and let me get up there instead. If I could suffer like you, I could heal like you.” Her prayer leads me to self-reflection—she earnestly desire to feel the pain of her sin so she can also experience the beauty of holy healing from it.
If it was possible to trace my prayers for forgiveness, it would seem I rarely sin. This is certainly not the case. I sugarcoat my sin, ignore it, and forget about it. If only I could feel the pain Jesus felt, then turning from sin would get the attention needed for my transformation into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I want to live under the protective umbrella of God’s amazing grace. But I don’t want to become numb to the price paid for that grace. Each infraction, no matter how big or small, played a part in Jesus’s suffering. The weight of that should cause me to grieve over my sin, to pursue holiness with every waking minute.
The quest for holiness is lifelong. We cry out with Paul, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15 NIV). In these moments when our best intentions at holiness fall flat, grace swoops in to rescue us. Grace reminds us we are not defined by our sin. Our story doesn’t end with the pain of sin, but redemption purchased on the cross. We can become new creations. This is why Jesus endured the pain of the cross—so his holiness could meet our humanity.
Kelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man. They have three children. In the quiet minutes of her day, you will find her at the keyboard or curled up with a book–always with coffee. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.
Photograph © Adam Griffith, used with permission