The Nail

Gospel Reading – John 1:6-8, 26-28

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; He came only as a witness to the light.”  “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

There was a man sent from God whose name is John; and he is my husband. He came as a witness of Christ’s light in my life at a time when I needed to know God in a big way. We will be celebrating our 19th year of marriage in May and God has blessed me over the years with a wonderful example of what it looks like for a bridegroom to love his bride.

The most recent example of my husband’s inspiring faith happened only a couple of weeks ago. John had an unfortunate accident with a nail gun that left him with an inch and a half finishing nail completely embedded in the bottom of his left palm. The pain was severe as we headed to the ER and I worried immediately about how the nail would be removed considering it was buried and out of sight. None of my fears were expressed out loud, the only words spoken were prayer and encouraging words to my husband as I attempted to keep him from passing out. A dear friend had called ahead for us to let the hospital know we were coming. He told us the hospital would be expecting us and we should simply pull up to the emergency doors and beep the horn; an attendant would bring John right in. It was 9:15 pm when I flew into the parking lot and screeched to a stop at the ER doors beeping the horn. No one came out. I beeped the horn again… No attendant showed up. My mother bear mode instantly kicked in… I helped John into the ER. At this point his face was colorless and he was barely standing. Someone brought a wheelchair and he was able to sit. My expectation was that John would immediately be brought back to see a doctor. He had a nail in his hand!

Expectations are never a good thing to have. After the receptionist compassionately told John he should have used a hammer instead, we sat in the waiting room for nearly 30 minutes. Although John didn’t have color, my face was turning a beautiful crimson, Christmas red as my blood pressure elevated by the minute. All I needed was some greenery and twinkling lights and I would have been a nice decoration. Have you ever seen angry eyes on a wreath? Me either…

Meanwhile, John was sitting in the wheelchair, holding a bag of ice on his hand and smiling tenderly at me through his pain as he encouraged me to just relax. “Being upset at the people here isn’t going to make things go faster,” he said. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. John’s comment reminded me to pray again. In silence I attempted to talk to God through the thoughts that swirled through my mind. I don’t know if prayers that have a few curse words mixed in really count, but it was the best I could do at the moment.

We were finally called back. Thank goodness. God heard the prayers – John would finally get an x-ray. Uh… no. The next “step” of this emergency process was to get through the red tape of admittance. As John sat helplessly in the wheelchair, he and I had to answer questions about insurance, where he worked, if I worked, where the accident happened, blah, blah. John was extremely polite to the nurse through all of it. As for me, I don’t know what was worse, my annoyed tone or exasperated facial expressions. The nurse wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. Guess she doesn’t like wreaths.

After the little check-in procedure, I wheeled John into a room. We were told he was going to be taken for an x-ray. I expected it to happen immediately. An hour and a half passed. An hour and a half passed and we were still sitting in an emergency room with no apparent emergency. John’s hand was swelling more, the pain was intensifying and he wasn’t even offered any pain medication. At this point I am having an out-of-body experience. My frustration levels and anger had transformed me into queen mother bear.

During this time John looked at me and calmly said, “Now I have a little understanding of what it was like for Jesus to have a nail in His hand.” He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. Again, John’s comment reminded me to pray. Not only was I disgusted with the hospital, now I was incredibly disgusted with myself. Where was my patience? Where was my faith that God was ultimately in control? All this waiting had me nuts. That’s when it hit me. This experience was a perfect Advent lesson. John and I both had to wait – but only one of us was trusting that the waiting was okay; and it wasn’t me. I tried to mentally regroup. It worked a little.

The small amount of waiting at the ER was nothing compared to what lay ahead. The x-ray showed the nail buried significantly and surrounded by tendons, nerves and arteries. We were sent to Cleveland Clinic ER at midnight; John needed a hand surgeon to remove the nail. We were sent home from the Cleveland Clinic at 3 am. Like I said, this situation was only an apparent emergency. We were told that John should meet the hand surgeon the next day during office hours and schedule surgery for Wednesday; more waiting. When we met with the doctor on Tuesday, we were told surgery wouldn’t be until Friday; additional waiting. The nail would stay in John’s hand four days before being removed. Now the waiting included worry about infection, further damage, and prolonged pain. I don’t even know what kind of bear I was at this point. John was very frustrated as well; along with being miserable and in pain. There was nothing we could do but rely on the earthly experts and Trust the Heavenly Expert that everything would be okay. I wanted to have an enriching Advent season this year, but this was more than I’d bargained for. It is always a humble reminder that God is God and we are not…

John pushed himself and managed to work the two days before surgery.

“He himself was not the light; He came only as a witness to the light.”

The nail was removed last Friday; the surgery a success. John is a lucky man as permanent damage was avoided by mere millimeters. The surgeon complimented John on “being a good shot.” And would you believe that just outside the door of John’s pre-op waiting room; where he waited on the stretcher for surgery, was a crucifix hanging on the wall! When John pointed it out to me I stood up and looked down the rest of the hallway along all the other pre-op rooms and there was not another crucifix in sight. That was all the affirmation we needed that everything would be fine. Is God not amazing?

I love my John. He is a beacon of Christ’s light and keeps me grounded in a world that is full of unmet expectations. This Advent will not soon be forgotten. The waiting pushed me closer to Christ and closer to my soul mate. We have so much to be thankful for this Christmas. As we celebrate Christ’s birthday and imagine Him lying in a bed of straw, we will also keep the image of His sacrifice on the cross close to heart. For it was in His death that His birth came full circle. From now on when I see a nail it will not only signify my freedom, but will be a reminder of how blessed I am to live with a man who was sent from God. His name is John.

Copyright © Shelby Spear, Moms of Faith, All Rights Reserved


  1. WICK on January 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Ouch. Great reminder, and well done, John. :)

  2. sarah snyder on May 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Love this reminder!!! Thank you for the blessings ….Love this site~

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