Glass Underfoot

Glass Underfoot

Infection healed just in time!

I have type 2 diabetes, which means that in theory any lesion in my extremities can be problematic: It can become infected, leading even to gangrene and amputation. Several of my local physicians, as well as my physician son and his physician wife, have adjured me that I must NEVER walk around barefooted, especially outside. It’s dangerous.

However, something there is within me that rejects being shod. During my first year in graduate school, at the Presbyterian Seminary in Austin, I once went for several months—from late winter through the end of the academic year—without ever donning a shoe. I suspect my professors didn’t like my showing up to class barefoot (and most often in cutoffs), but God bless them for their graciousness: No one ever said anything. My feet became so tough that I could walk over nearly any surface, even those that would be nearly impossible for “normal people” to traverse without shoes, with no problem.

During the decades I have lived in my quiet Urbana, Illinois neighborhood, I have doffed shoes as often as possible. It’s relatively urban, so the primary danger is broken glass in the streets. Although it’s not common to step in glass, I do it from time to time. I may walk barefoot to the supermarket ¾ of a mile away, carrying in a shopping bag a pair of soft moccasins to wear in the store. Ditto for walking to the library, but it’s only four blocks away. On many occasions I have needed to retrieve the newspaper from the front yard, or something from my car, and have walked barefoot through several inches of snow in temperatures as low as the mid-teens. I wouldn’t walk in the snow for a long time; but to be outside for only a few minutes, it’s just too much trouble to put on shoes.

Occasionally my feet pick up small pieces of glass (or, more rarely, a thorn or other bit of plant detritus). If the invading item is sufficiently large, I can remove it with tweezers. But on perhaps a couple of dozen occasions, I have had a painful sliver of glass in my foot that was so small that I couldn’t see it; or it was so deeply embedded that I couldn’t retrieve it. The problem typically disappears in a week or so. I don’t know whether the offending piece is dissolved and absorbed by my body, or whether it works itself to the surface and disappears. Whatever the mechanism, for many years I have been blessed with no significant complications from remaining unshod.

Until a few months ago.

I was walking home from the library when, only a block from my house, I felt a sharp pain in my foot. I kept that part of my foot—the right side of the ball of my right foot—from touching the pavement until I got home and washed my feet. Unfortunately, I could see nothing. I used a mirror, and a magnifying glass, and I softly rubbed the surface of my foot in order to identify any invading item; but I found nothing. That part of my foot hurt pretty badly if I walked on it, even gently, but I identified nothing that I could excise. I was quite confident that it was a deep-seated piece of glass, since over the years I have learned to differentiate among various substances according to the nature of the pain they cause.

Even though this level of pain was greater than anything I had previously experienced from a sliver of glass, I wasn’t worried. As had always happened before, I assumed it eventually would be dissolved (or work its way out, or whatever. . . ).

But the pain remained. For weeks. The pain would wax and wain. During the latter periods I would convince myself that it was being dissolved or was working its way out. Then it would become worse again. One day, a couple of months after this all began, it became much worse. For the first time, it began to hurt not only when I put pressure on it as I walked; it hurt all the time. The pain kept me awake at night. After a few nights, with the pain becoming worse and worse, I knew that I needed to see a doctor. The increasing pain, even when there was no pressure on the foot, almost certainly indicated that my foot was infected—a bad thing for someone with diabetes. This revelation occurred on a Friday night. My schedule typically remains wide open; but unfortunately there were some major things I absolutely had to do on that Saturday.

It was late Saturday night. I was determined to drive the following day to the local walk-in clinic. I didn’t want to lose my foot!

As I tried unsuccessfully to sleep in spite of the pain in my foot, it occurred to me that I had never once prayed about this problem (Duh)!  I began speaking silently to my foot*: “Be healed. Sliver of glass, be gone. You do not belong in the foot of one of God’s children. Foot, be well, be healed, be whole. . .” Or whatever. Stuff like that. I eventually drifted into the blessed sleep that had eluded me for the previous few nights.

Several hours later I woke, thinking that I should wash my feet before driving to the clinic (I hadn’t showered in several days). However, as I got out of bed, I was astonished to realize that my foot felt perfectly fine.

There is no virtue in lengthening this final discussion. In sum: I was healed. NO pain, NO discomfort of any kind.

Whenever there is the slightest possibility that I may have misinterpreted a healing or other blessing from God, I like to wait until I am 100% certain it was not psychosomatic, or no other subtle factors were at work. By now, however, I know unambiguously that I was healed. Since that Sunday morning two months ago, I haven’t felt so much as a tiny discomfort in my right foot.

I freely admit that it was my fault for getting glass in my foot. If I had acted “responsibly” by wearing shoes, it wouldn’t have happened. A very important point, however: I know quite a few Christians (who lean toward legalism) who might have suggested that it was inappropriate to pray about my problem, since I brought it on myself and surely God wouldn’t heal me from a self-inflicted wound!

But I want you to know, unambiguously, that our Lord is gracious! He does not oppress his kids. For our own good, he may discipline us in love by letting us taste the consequences of our actions (hey—I did suffer for a couple of months, after all!). But he is not vindictive. He seeks to bless. He seeks to heal. Because he loves us!

God is gracious.


Addendum: It is reasonable that you will ask, “If all this stuff about God’s healing is real, why haven’t you been healed from diabetes?”

That’s a very good question, to which I have no answer. I have indeed prayed about my diabetes (and my hypertension, etc.). But I remain unhealed. I can offer a few hypotheses, but they remain just that: theoretical ideas that may or may not be valid. One idea, which I consider by far most likely, is that I know how to take care of these symptoms of “metabolic syndrome”: exercise and diet! And I just haven’t developed the discipline, because of my inherent sinfulness, to do what is necessary! The obvious objection here, of course, is the very discussion I offer above about my healing from the glass sliver in my foot: In that discussion, I point out that God was gracious toward me in spite of my irresponsible behaviors; so why, you might ask, would he not do the same so far as my diabetes is concerned? My response? I have no clue!

I will say only that I am happy to accept and be grateful for whatever graces my Lord gives me!!!


* I need to briefly discuss how I believe scripture explains/models/justifies prayer. For a much more complete discussion of this topic, please read “Why Intercessory Prayer ‘Works’.

There are several stories about and teachings concerning prayer in the Bible. But when we look at actual examples of humans’ exercising spiritual power, it’s not what we commonly imagine. Many if not a significant majority of the works of spiritual power in biblical accounts—from healings to parting a sea to making an ax head float—involve not “Please God” requests but rather human commands.

From the beginning, God intended human beings to exercise power and authority, and that intention has never wavered. It is entirely appropriate for humans—standing in the authority that God has given us as beings created in God’s own image, and especially standing in the authority of the human Jesus of Nazareth, who now stands at God’s right hand with all authority in heaven and earth—to proclaim healings or other acts of power.

God encourages humans to exercise spiritual authority! That was his idea from the beginning. Most of the miracles in the book of Acts do NOT involve God’s children asking him to act; rather, they involve a human speaking an act of power! That is our birthright as humans and as siblings of the human Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord of all. For elaboration on how this principle relates to healing, although with significantly different vocabulary, see Agnes Sanford’s book The Healing Light—a book that, ever since I read it, has strongly informed the way in which I pray.

Finally, the point of all this: Asking God to do stuff is fine. It’s cool; it’s altogether acceptable according to scripture. But it is also cool for you or me, as children of God and siblings of the King of Kings, to proactively speak God’s blessing into a situation and make it become real. As we feel led and as we feel comfortable doing so, we need not necessarily ask God to heal; we are called/privileged simply to say, “Be healed.”

I hope it goes without saying that these principles can/must be exercised only from a position of the deepest humility, and from a servant’s heart!