Let’s start with a PSA: clean your belly button!
As a nurse in the OR, one of my tasks is washing and prepping skin prior to the surgeon’s incision. If the surgical site includes the abdomen, the belly button must be addressed. Recently, I encountered one that hadn’t been cleaned for quite a while…but more about that later.
As a youth, we labeled belly buttons as “innies” or “outies,” This was quite the discussion one day at recess although I don’t remember what importance we attached to either version. Anatomy aside, belly buttons are simply all that remains of the umbilical cord that sustained us as a fetus. After birth, this lifeline is no longer necessary but some get decorated through tattoos or piercings.
For surgery, all jewelry including navel decorations must be removed and a pre-surgical shower completed prior to the OR prep.
Which brings me back to my tale. You see, the belly button in question contained another sort of unremoved “decoration.” As I pre-wash the abdomen prior to surgery, the belly button is cleansed with soapy gauze squares and cotton swabs. This one would…not…get…clean. Repeated attempts to get it dirt-free finally resulted in a literal glob of compressed debris the size of a large blueberry.
I had found what is referred to as a “belly bean.” This did not result from a couple of missed showers. This formed after weeks or months of neglect as dirt layered over and over again until it formed a hardened lump. The need for surgery had revealed what had been hidden.
This got me thinking about matters of the heart. Sometimes, we neglect to deal with things that cause another kind of hardness. Over time, when we don’t deal with these in a timely fashion, the consequences build layer upon layer until the heart becomes calloused.
Consider these two among many possible causes:
- Pride and arrogance – The belief that we can completely control our circumstances; of being in charge of our destiny. This deception denies God’s contribution and sovereignty. The hardness of Pharoah’s heart resulted from his pride and arrogance. Even as the plagues strongly demonstrated God’s power, he continued to deny God’s dominion as the one, true God (Ex. 9:34). Conceit, egotism, superiority, overconfidence…layers of self-importance collect until the heart hardens.
- Bitterness, Resentment, Unforgiveness – holding on to offense rather than offering forgiveness leads to a hardened heart. It really doesn’t matter whether this was a one-time incident or repeated transgression – refusing to forgive has the same result. Many don’t understand forgiveness. It does NOT mean that what was said or done was OK. Forgiveness, from God’s perspective, removes the offended party from seeking revenge. Forgiveness recognizes God’s role as our vindicator. As long as we try to retain control of “making them pay,” we become the ones in bondage. Forgiveness releases them from “owing “us for what they did – and we get to move on in peace knowing they are now in God’s hand. When we extend forgiveness, we act upon what God modeled with our transgressions (Col. 3:13).
Refusing to deal with these and similar areas causes consequences to hide in the cracks and crevices of our life. Eventually, our hearts become hardened and bitter. We often don’t realize just how much “dirt” gets hidden in the nooks and crannies of our soul until a major event uncovers it. Longer times of layered and unresolved issues result in a hardness that is more difficult to remove, requiring more work to dislodge it.
I know that at times, I have allowed circumstances to go unresolved and have suffered from the bitterness that results from a hardening heart. I also have come to appreciate the peace that comes from quickly resolving issues.
Dealing with things early on is like cleaning your belly button.
“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light , as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:5-9, NLT, emphasis mine)
Daily “dirt” is cleansed away by God’s mercy and grace!