My nephew told his parents one night at the dinner table, "I don't like basagna. It makes my elbow hurt." He's three. And he wasn't confused - he pointed to his elbow when he said it! I've returned to that several times over the last week - mainly because it makes me laugh. That kid is hilarious. But it's also made me think about behaviors and pain that seem to come from nowhere. Or from eating basagna. Understanding why we do what we do can help us prune what needs pruning and fertilize what needs fertilizing.
I get this as a teacher. A student struggles to stay awake and complete assignments one week but not the next? Check into her home life. Lives with one parent one week and another the next. It's likely that one parent has high expectations for school work and bed times while the other doesn't. I try to understand why my students behave as they do. It helps me find ways to support them so that they have a chance at success.
Apply it to my life? My behaviors? Mmmmm. Not so fulfilling. If I understand why I'm choosing eating disordered behavior or why I'm angry at someone, then I have to fix it. And I am not a handy person. I'm much more adept at wallowing than repairing.
But here's some good news - God is the great repairman. He not only knows why our elbows hurt from eating basagna, he can help us take care of that. Look at Isaiah 61:3 (the prophet is prophesying about the Messiah coming to the people to...)
bestow on them on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning
a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
I'd really like to be an oak of righteousness, but until I get the yuck out, I will never be. So when my elbow hurts, instead of enjoying it, I think I'll ask God to fix it for me.