My truck is in the shop today because it failed its smog inspection. From what I’ve been told, there is a leak in the system somewhere and it’s sucking air from where it shouldn’t be. If that wasn’t bad enough, it has caused two other components to fail. Apparently they were fine until the hole appeared. They are secondary issues caused by the primary issue. In other words, they are collateral damage.
I learned that expression during the first Gulf War. When a bomb would hit its target, often it created a sphere of damage that affected surrounding people, places or things. They referred to it as collateral damage. Unintentional destruction caused during the process of hitting a specific target.
Now in the big picture collateral damage is still damage and whether it was intended or not things have been destroyed. If someone is firing a gun at random and I happen to get hit, I am no less hurt than if the guy aimed it at me. I’ve still been shot.
Much of the misery in our lives is collateral damage. It’s the stuff we never see coming, the stuff we get caught up in that wasn’t targeted at us but hit us anyway. Someone is sick or someone has a tantrum or someone commits a crime or someone runs a red light or someone dies, may have little to do with me directly but indirectly it affects my life. I have been collected into the net being dragged behind else’s life.
How might understanding that help me? It should encourage me to not take those actions affecting me personally. Once I take something personally, I suddenly enter temptation. I begin to doubt God’s faithfulness, or assess blame, or feel violation, or seek revenge. How dare this happen to me…as though I of all people should escape life’s mishaps. By taking something personally, I begin to absorb the event instead of package that event and hand it to God.
If I absorb what’s happened I immediately lose perspective. My fight or flight instincts take over and I begin to act according to how I feel. In that moment I have become ineffective in dealing with what’s going on. Suddenly I forget I am a Child of God and have been woven into the promises of God, grafted into the family tree of blessing and engraved into God’s hand.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if I was the target or standing close by. If I will immediately trust God I will stop the damage from continuing to spread into other areas of my life. That’s called damage control.
In other words, had I been able to stop the leak when it was first discovered, I’d probably have saved myself the extra bucks it’s going to take to fix my truck and the pain that’s going to cause in the pocketbook.