Sometimes I just want to ask all of them to be quiet and leave. Sometimes I want to say, “Hey, I’m the teacher. Let me do the teaching. Let me fix it. Don’t try to fix it yourself.”
I’ve been biting my fingers and my nails for years. Decades. Since I was maybe six or seven. Maybe earlier. I remember the very first time I did it: there was a hangnail on my finger or thumb, and I didn’t like it, I thought it was ugly, so I pulled it off. then I started noticing all the other little imperfections on my fingers, and went from there. I kept thinking, “this is wrong, this is making it worse,” but I had a terrible overwhelming compulsion to fix it.
(note - this article was originally posted on my personal blog. It has since closed and I'm moving the articles over to this site)
It’s funny because for years, I’ve been trying to quit that habit that started so long ago. People have told me everything: you’ve re-programmed your brain to enjoy the pain; you’re addicted to flesh; you have a heart problem; don’t worry about it, it’s just a bad habit, not a sin. I read books and articles about picking and addiction and never really got anywhere. It is a legitimate addiction in that I have a compulsion to pick, and when I don't, I get shaky and nervous and feel like I'm coming off my meds.
It never dawned on me to ask my teacher.
One Tuesday night I shared these thoughts with my small group at Bible study. They asked that God reveal what that root problem was in my heart, that He help me move past whatever it was. They asked for instant revelation.
I got no instant revelation.
I thought about it on my drive home. Still nothing.
I thought about it as I went to bed, and asked God again, “Why am I doing this? Why do I feel the need to tear away new fresh flesh from my hands? Why do I think it’s helping me? Why can’t I stop permanently?”
The next day was Wednesday. I still had no revelation. But through my work-day, I did catch myself starting to chew on my fingers before I did it, rather than after. In the past, as I’d told my mom and my boyfriend, “I don’t know I’m doing it until it’s done. I don’t realize it until I taste the blood.” But that day I was seeing myself bring my hand to my mouth, and I noticed as I contorted my wrist to scratch at that little scab on my thumb. That continued on through the rest of the day, and the next day. I didn’t know why it was easier to not bite, I didn’t know why I was noticing the urges, but I was, and I was thankful.
Friday afternoon I was driving home from work. I’d rolled down the windows, let my hair out, and unplugged my cd player in my car, deciding to instead just listen to the sound of the wind rushing over my ears while I ate kettle chips. I thought about Tuesday night at Bible study, when one of my friends had mentioned that God always seemed to answer her questions with another question that she knew the answer to, how gentile He was in his forgiveness and his correction, how delicately He convicted.
And I heard that tiny whisper. In that quiet moment, letting the sun warm my face, while I popped kettle chips into my mouth.
“What makes you think you can solve your own problems?”
I stopped chewing. my forehead wrinkled.
Is that what I thought? God, I thought, I don’t think that.
In that quiet moment, I remembered all the times I’d bandaged up my fingers, used nasty-tasting nail polish, worn cotton gloves 24/7, sat on my hands, slapped my fingers when I found myself chewing. All those times I had tried to stop. All those times I had failed. All those times I had.
Slowly my eyes began to open. I grew up as a very confident, empowered young woman. I know in my head that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But somehow I got stuck on the “I can do all things” part without the “through God” part. I’m very good at making myself do things. I’m self-disciplined. I am fairly self-aware. I am confident. I am strong. I am smart. I am.
But He is. I am not, and He is. That should be my focus. He can solve my problems. He can heal my body. He can show me grace. He can give me comfort in times of stress and anxiety.
Since then I have yo-yo'ed back and forth between healthy fingers and bloody stumps. Every time I see that I'm picking my nails or chewing my hands, I know the reason behind it. It's not just muscle memory; my hands tell me how much I'm trusting God at any given time.
Now I want you to know that I am not saying that anyone who picks isn't trusting God. But for me, the entire battle revolves around my belief in myself. When I focus on what I can do, I consume and destroy my flesh. When I let God do what He wants and let Him handle my problems, my flesh is restored.
And isn't that a reflection of what happens internally? When we attempt to live without God, we are broken and dirty and scarred. But when we hand over our flesh to the Lord, He restores us.
Sometimes I feel so ignorant.
But I must remember that my focus should not be I am, but rather, He is.