It was a Saturday morning, and our youth pastor… who happened to be my brother-in-law, David, was taking a handful of us out to go door-to-door in the neighborhoods surrounding our church in order to ask people if we could pray with them. It was getting close to noon and we were about to make our last push through the neighborhood closest to the church. Plus, it was beginning to sprinkle and rain was imminent.
We dropped off the other guy to go with two girls down one street while David and I tackled an apartment complex. We pulled in and David parked the white 15-passenger van that it seems every church in America owns. When he had turned it off, I slid across the first bench seat, slid open the large side sliding door, and in one majestic leap hopped out of the van, keeping my right hand on the outside handle of the sliding door. As my left foot landed on the ground and my right foot began to press off the floor of the van, I slammed the sliding door shut with all my early twenties might without even looking behind me.
But the van door didn’t make the normal sound it made when latching shut. In fact, it seemed to not even go all the way closed. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t close. I mean, I had slammed that door hard. “Oh, well,” I thought, “I’ll just slam it again.” And I did. And again it didn’t make the right noise or shut as it was supposed to.
So, I turned around to see what was keeping the door from shutting properly just in time to see David grabbing both sides of his head and falling backward onto the front bench seat. Only then did I realize what had happened. Instead of climbing out the driver’s door as I thought he would, because of the rain he had decided he could exit more quickly by following me out the sliding door. He thought I heard him coming behind me, but I had not. And so his head was just coming through the path of the sliding door, as I gave it my first slam. SLAM! Stunned, both physically and mentally, by that first blow, David couldn’t move. That’s when the second slam came. SLAM!
I felt horrible… for a moment. Then I laughed. Then I felt horrible again. You could actually see the indentions on the sides of David’s temples where the door had sandwiched his head. And to think that I did it to him not only once, but twice. Then I felt really horrible. His head hurt so badly that he had to ask me to drive the one block to pick up the other students and get back to the church. His head hurt for weeks. Even months later certain things triggered pain where his head had been creased by the slam of my door.
Lo, these many years later, David actually talks to me. In fact, we often tell that story with a lot of laughs attached. Occasionally when we tell it, though, I think I see a little wince and maybe some moistness in his eyes as his mind recalls and relives the head-slamming incident. But David quickly forgave me, even though I know he had to have been frustrated with me at the time.
The truth is, we all get our heads slammed in the van door of life sometimes. Sometimes by enemies. Sometimes by well-meaning, well-intentioned people who never wanted to hurt us. But SLAM! And suddenly we are reeling backwards from the unexpected blow. When these head-slams come our way, it feels like the pain is never going to stop, never going to go away.
But it does… eventually.
In the Old Testament, Joseph faced a few head-slams himself. His half-brothers hated him and threw him in a pit to die. SLAM! Then they changed their mind and sold him into slavery and told their dad a wild animal killed him. SLAM! For years he served his master faithfully and very successfully, but then was falsely accused of making advances on the boss’ wife and was thrown into prison. SLAM! He interprets dreams for two of Pharaoh’s servants who promise to remember Joseph and help get him out of prison, but one dies and the other forgets. SLAM!
But then the one living servant remembers Joseph at a crucial moment when Pharaoh needs a dream interpreted. Joseph is brought out of prison, interprets the dream about a looming famine, comes up with a spectacular plan to save the nation and is made second in command over all Egypt. A little healing.
Joseph’s half-brothers actually have to go to Egypt to get food due to the famine. And they have to get food from Joseph. A little more healing. He does not reveal himself immmediately, but helps them. Eventually, Joseph tells them who he is and that he no longer allows the damage they inflicted upon him to control him. And in one of the most amazing verses in Scripture, Genesis 45:15 tells us that as Joseph wept with joy, he kissed each of his brothers and they began talking freely with each other as the relationships are restored. Complete healing!
So, whatever head-slam you’ve faced in life, know this… If you will give the pain to God, the pain will stop at some point. I cannot promise that it will always be immediate, though I have seen situations in which He has done that for people. But He will bring about healing. He will make things right. And sure, there might be an occasional wince as your mind recalls the head-slamming incident, but that will fall away into the joy of being healed from the hurt. Who knows? You might even be willing to drive a van again like David!