I am getting a blood transfusion today, so I think it is only fitting that my writing also be about blood. I learned about Fibrin Sheaths in my blood a couple of months ago. Since then, I have given tutorials to lab techs (who have been sent to TAKE MY BLOOD-ironic, isn’t it?) about the function of these little suckers. The first time I learned of them was when I was getting my blood drawn. I always watch as they fill the little tube. This particular time, we could see weird little things sticking to the edge of the tube and floating in my blood. If you have ever used canned meat, like corned beef used in corned beef hash (hmm-no wonder I have had a hankering for corned beef hash lately. Seriously, I just bought a can of corned beef last week. Out of the can, it looks, smells and possibly taste like cat food, but is still DELICIOUS), you might be able to picture what these look like. Fibrin Sheaths resemble the pink layer fat that sit on the top of the canned meat, except it’s in tiny, thin pieces. They are part of the coagulation and clotting process. When my PICC Line (the two tubes coming out of my arm that help them draw blood and give intravenous medicine) get clogged, Fibrin Sheaths are typically behind it. Either the sheath gets sucked into the tube and clogs it, or it wraps itself around the end of the line internally, preventing blood from coming out. It can be dissolved with a product called alteplase, which is injected in the tube, but sometimes the sheaths eventually get “bumped” and come off on their own. Either way, the flow is once again restored. If you don’t have them in your blood, your blood can’t clot (resulting in diseases like hemophilia), but if they go astray, the can cause problems if you give or get blood.
So how in the heck, you may ask yourself, can this possibly apply to anything else that matters? Glad you asked. Fibrin sheaths are necessary and good, but when they are not doing their job right, they are problematic. This makes me think of “character defects.” In recovery groups, when we do the 6th step, we talk about being “entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” In my crazy brain, “defects of character” are my Fibrin Sheaths that are not doing their job right or have gone astray. In other words, it might be necessary to REMOVE these defects entirely, completely obliterating them with the alteplase (alteplase, for our purposes, being things like prayer, spiritual disciplines or just plain begging God to remove our baggage). These would be character defects along the lines of gossip, pride, jealousy, anger, etc. Things that are, at the root, pure evil. There is no good thing that comes from them and are not a negative morphing of something good that God put in us from the beginning. However, the majority of my character defects are the result of good intentions, behavior and positive characteristics, that have been distorted or corrupted as a result of getting out of step with God’s will and insisting on my own. For example, God put the desire for intimacy in me, but when I am sick in self (for whatever reason), this desire can turn destructive to myself and others. God gives me the desire to be helpful to others, but when I am sick in self, I abuse the original purpose and use it to feed my own ego and self-esteem, making it obnoxious and decidedly UNhelpful to others. They say that at any time, on a continuum, we all have approx.13 diagnosable disorders, straight out the DSM. Sometimes our disorders are in check and “in remission”, but when stress comes, circumstances rock our world, people wound us, or we get out of step with God, those can move their way up on the continuum until they are harmful. It’s the same with Fibrin Sheaths; when they aren’t clotting in order to prevent hemorrhaging, they are harmful. And finally-when our good characteristics encounter stressful circumstances or we stop putting God first in all things, they become “character defects.” It is really only God’s call to decide which ones to get rid of entirely (alteplase, baby!) and God’s job to do the getting rid of. We are powerless and often clueless on figuring this out on our own. That’s the bad news and the good news of it; Though we can do NOTHING, God can do EVERYTHING.
I used to have a list of about 10 major “character defects” I wanted to be rid of. I worked on them in various ways and at various levels for YEARS with various degrees of success. Then, for whatever reason, I stopped focusing on these and put my energy and heart into just finding my identity in God and God alone. Not in what others thought of me or how much I weighed or how much I did at church or if I appeared godly enough (“which of these things is not like the other?” The one about my weight seems more shallow than the others at first glance, but ultimately they are ALL about image management). Some time after this shift in my focus, I found my list. Guess what? NONE of the things on the list were an issue in my life, at all. Every last one had been removed or brought into their rightful place on the continuum. It’s almost as if God’s promise of, “seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well” was actually true. I needed to stop living in the basement of my life, constantly rearranging and storing up crap I don’t need, and start living in the Upper rooms; the LIVING rooms of my life. My human nature wants to be able to claim that I DID something, that I conquered, that I should be given credit for my own redemption. All that does is feed my ego and more often than not, leave me exhausted, discouraged and defeated. If I make my life solely about living in a loving relationship with God, “all these things” will be added, or in this case, taken away, as well.