Friday, February 22, 2013


She is only six years old, and the term "tough cookie" doesn't even begin to described her.

She carries her burdens alone.

After just a glimmer of venerability, her walls come up. Impenetrable. She is a prisoner of her own fortress. I have no doubt she wants to escape, but she's too scared.

"Have you ever had a splinter?" I ask, and she nods yes. "When I was a little boy," I tell her, "there were thorn trees all around my house and in the yard where I'd play."

She leans forward a listens with the interest most children have when adults speak of their own childhood.

"Every now and then, I'd fall onto a thorn. Huge thorns. Sometimes I'd even step on them." Her eyes grow big, as though surprised I survived such an ordeal. "Well," I continue, "one day I fell onto a thorn this big," as I gesture a sightly exaggerrated length, "and it poked right into my knee!"

Her eyes widen even more. "Ouch!" she says.

"Yes! Ouch, indeed!" I reply, "And do you know what? I was so frightened to show my parents. I just knew it would hurt if they removed the thorn from my knee. So I kept it hidden, and it became more and more sore."

"What happened?" she asks, fully engrossed into the tale.

"Finally I just had to show parents the thorn because it hurt so badly. They needed to remove it, and I was so scared it was going to hurt. And guess what... it did hurt. It hurt a lot. But after the thorn was out, it began to heal and eventually it didn't hurt as much. I still have a scar on my knee from the thorn, but it doesn't even hurt at all now."

"Oh," she says, "I had a splinter in my finger once and my mom had to squeeze it out and I cried a lot." "Wow! Does it still hurt?" I ask. "Nope, it was a long time ago and it got better! I doesn't hurt anymore."

And now, unsure of her ability to comprehend, I tell her that emotions are similar. Getting them out is painful. And the pain doesn't go away right afterwards, either. But the wound does begin to heal, and eventually the pain fades. There might be a scar left behind that reminds us about when we got the splinter, and that's normal, but it doesn't hurt like it used to.

"Do you understand?" I ask. She nods her head and says, "Uh huh." "Good!" I encourage her, "Now let's make sure your momma understands it, okay? I'll help you out."

Excited to teach her mother something, she says, "Feelings are like when I got that splinter that one time. It really hurt when you took it out, but then it started getting better."

"And how else is that like feelings?" I ask.

"Um..." she smiles shyly, "maybe if I talk about stuff to my mom I could feel better and not be sad?"

Her walls are still impenetrable. But with some time, a little encouragement, and a lot of prayer, I think she may begin to understand she doesn't have to be a prisoner in her own fortress. One day, she'll allow that thorn to be removed from her knee.

And it's going to hurt, but healing will follow.

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