Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paper Cuts

Did you ever see the movie “The Main Event”? An unforgettable scene has replayed itself in my mind these past thirty years. Ryan O’Neal and other prizefighters are recounting past injuries, oblivious to Barbra Streisand who is trying desperately to contribute to the conversation. One is telling how his manager had to throw in the towel after he was beaten to a bloody pulp. Another embellishes a fight where part of his lip was hanging by a thread, and the manager snipped it off so the fight could continue.

Barbra’s head goes from one end of the table to the other listening to the gory tales until finally she ventures in with what she considers a humdinger. She gets their attention and then declares, “Once I was licking an envelope and I got a paper cut right on my tongue!” The guys all stop talking and stare at her dumb-founded.

That’s sort of how I felt at a Bible study in north Dallas, when someone seriously asked for prayer because the tape deck was stolen out of his fully insured BMW. It was all I could do to not laugh out loud. Generally I am cast in the opposite role. I learned early not to grumble about not having hot water, recalling how the old-timers used to haul water up from the river to heat over an open fire.

Now once again I am Barbra Streisand with the paper cut. At my weekly Bible study with the local ladies, I listen to their hair-graying experiences with evil personified. As they share about family members involved in witchcraft and drunken rages, I fall silent; humbled again by the hell on earth that is their daily existence.

Likewise my heart goes out to those of you living in sensitive countries with trials you dare not mention. I keep praying that my dream of an online forum will soon become a reality, where you can support and encourage each other more freely, comparing battle wounds (while secretly snickering at my outrageous attempts to contribute).

Again this week, my complaints are petty. Literally I have a thorn in my flesh that is miniscule but annoying. I am on a doctor-monitored diet requiring a daily green juice containing nopal, a locally grown cactus that is high in fiber, helping to balance blood sugar levels. Several weeks ago I bought some that was supposedly already stripped of spines, but one invisible hair of a thorn poked me in the thumb. I never could get it out. It pricks when I hold a pen and bugs me when I type.

Sometimes it’s the little things that cause the most distress. I handle the big crises fine, and then some tiny paper cut throws me over the edge.

No way am I asking prayer for this festering thumb, but hey, on a positive note, I’ve lost ten kilos so far!

[Editor’s note: Please send in your questions about your cross-cultural conundrums for the “ASK JAMIE JO” post.]


  1. I've been on both ends, too. Not sure which side is more fun, but I remind myself that no problem is too big, or too small, for God to take care over. And no problem, big or small, is any less real to the person whose problem it is. I have to remind myself of that often, whether I'm the one with the tiny "insignificant" problem that no one understands, or I'm the one seeing how "tiny and insignificant" someone else's problem is. It's a constant mantra through my mind, needs repeating often, but helps me react/respond appropriately no matter the situation, if I'm listening to myself at the moment.

  2. Thanks for chiming in. It struck me as humorous to find one single comment from "The" Reader. Haha.

    Just to add to what you've said, at the risk of repeating myself from an earlier post, I have to strive against becoming one of those "you think YOU have it bad..." kind of old missionaries. I should repeat your mantra, too.

    Some have it worse and some have it better. Always. If we are honest, we're just somewhere in the middle.

  3. Yes, the little things can wear us down. I needed to read this post. It gave me new perspective. Today my washing machine finally died, so I pulled sopping soapy clothes out of it and right after homeschool, I made an emergency shopping trip for a washer! As in, I need to wash clothes. Now. Today. We can't even afford it right now, but I trust God to provide because He KNOWS we need it. So I guess really this is a paper cut kind of problem in the scheme of life...Thanks.

  4. Ugh on the splinter! Oh, and I cut my tongue on a Valentine's lollipop - it does hurt! :)

    Pain and difficulty are so difficult to assess. Very individual. Sometimes it is easy to brush off another's difficulties as inconsequential, but before we do, we should pause. It may be that the "little" thing they are complaining about is actually the last straw that broke the camel's back... one of many little things that added up... or that there are things they have not been able to talk about, but are not coping with well... and this little thing was just what pushed them over.

    I don't know how many times I have cried over something little because I was carrying a heavier burden, but it was the little thing that finally turned on the tap of tears.

    Then there are times to be aware of who we are talking to. I clearly remember a friend in college crying over her hot chocolate to another about the fact that she wouldn't see her parents "all the way until Christmas!" when the person she was complaining to had just said goodbye to hers for three years. The one was so caught up in her own drama that she did not remember the other's reality. The other handled it well, but I watched and thought, "if only she knew what the other was facing...."

    God, give us all grace for each other!

    I watched and smiled... in our pain, be aware of the life of the one we are talking to.

  5. Oh, it's so true. At the moment all of our problems are big and overwhelming. Then we see someone else in much worse shape and realize how silly we were. But God loves the silly and the overwhelmed just as much as those with "real" problems. Aren't we glad!

  6. Yes, Aunt Michele, we are glad!

    Ellie, once again you nailed it exactly. Good reminders. What is perfectly fine or even humorous in one setting is totally inappropriate with a different audience. Lord, do give us grace and sensitivity.

    Olivetree, would you believe my washing machine kicked the bucket this past weekend, too? Same exact scenario. How I could relate! I rate that higher than a paper cut because of the expense. Don't you?

  7. This is so true - I'm usually on the Streisand end of the scale here - how to complain about bone chips in ground beef with people who can't afford to buy it in the first place. Still ... I hate those bone chips!

    It is most definitely the little things (and sometimes the big as I'm such a work-in-progress!).

    Great blog - good reminders, and I appreciated reading the comments too.

    Thank you.


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