It’s funny how much a little splinter can hurt.
At first, you just feel a tiny pinch as it slides into your skin, or maybe you feel nothing at all, but that doesn’t mean the splinter isn’t there. A splinter, left untouched, will begin to fester. Most of the time you don’t notice it until something touches it, provoking a sting and irritation. If you leave it alone too long, it could cause an infection.
My heart has a splinter.
There are different kinds of splinters that can penetrate our hearts, but this one appears most frequently in mine: the splinter of self. It wiggles its way into my heart, whispering that I have a right to be selfish, to get my way in pride and control. This splinter causes me to obsess over my appearance and how others view me.
From a distance, my heart may look perfectly normal. It feels mostly normal. But when something bumps my “splinter”—when plans don’t go my way or conviction strikes—I bristle with agitation that results in bitterness, cynicism, envy, or impatience.
The miniscule splinter begins to infiltrate my entire heart with ugly pride and overflows to my actions if I continue to ignore it.
How do we fix it? How can we get rid of this splinter, the negative feelings it produces, and feel better about ourselves? A better question is this: How can we know Jesus more? How can we become more like Him?
In my stubbornness, I try to pull the splinter out myself. I try harder to be a better person or act more humble or prove that I am strong. My self-sufficiency wedges the splinter down even further and infects the core of my heart.
The splinter stings again, and I wallow in a pile of remorse. Why did I ever think my self could cure my selfishness?
I remember David’s words: “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). I know what I need to do.
Get to the Point
When I was younger and I discovered a splinter in my hand or foot, I would run to my dad. Sometimes he was able to simply tug it out with tweezers. Other times I heard the dreaded words: I’m going to have to use a needle.
“Noooo!” I would wail, and run away from him. But each time he calmly sat me down and explained that the sliver was completely under my skin and that the needle was necessary to expose and remove it. Even though the initial poke hurt, it was only for a second, and it would ultimately take away the pain the splinter was causing. Reluctantly, I would give him my hand. With a little poke and a gentle tug, the problematic splinter was out.
When we hand over our hearts to the Lord, not only will He remove our splinters, He will make our hearts whole.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Ps. 51:10)
His Love Removes Our Splinters
When we look to the Creator of our hearts to know and love Him more, He fills us with more of Himself and expels our self-obsession. In His love, He reminds us that we are His children.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)
His love plucks out our splinters of self-righteousness, self-obsession, and all of the self-consuming thoughts and actions that take place in our hearts. Like a literal splinter, the pain of removal is far less than the pain of infection, and it ends in freedom and relief.
Jesus knew we were bound to find splinters of self within us. It’s why He tells us that to follow Him, we must renounce our selfishness. To the disciples, He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Dying to self brings freedom as we receive His love in full.
Living out of the love of Jesus means that our lives reflect authentic, others-focused love. His love drives out our selfishness. We are free to love others genuinely when we understand how He loves us (1 John 4:19).
When we find ourselves being pricked by the splinter of self, let us be quick to run to the Lord with open hands stretched out in confession and offer our hearts completely to Him.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Ps. 32:1–2)