Friday, January 11, 2013

It Will Heal

These reassuring words were spoken over the phone by our American doctor friend five hours away.
Hearing him say “It will heal” brought great comfort to me as Charly lay on the couch moaning in pain. They spoke to my anxious heart, “Don’t worry. It’s going to be ok.”


Playing Monkey in the Middle (otherwise known as “keep away”) with a football was our family’s favorite pastime in the village last fall. A week or so after Joshua's heroic rescue of the football from the river, Charly had an ugly encounter with a thorny tree in our courtyard, just after catching the ball while trying to make a fast get away to keep from getting tagged. Unfortunately, the tree (in the picture below, to the right of Jordan) stopped him with a deep gash in his forehead.

After washing off the blood at the outdoor spigot and finding a towel to hold to his head, we got Charly inside and as comfortable as could be. I consulted our village medical manual “Where There is No Doctor” and quickly decided I would not try the homemade stitches approach. The more difficult decision though was if he truly needed stitches. I have never been able to determine if a wound is “gaping.” Should we try out the medical clinic at the nearest town (a 20 minute walking distance away) or would it be better to travel back to Lanzhou for stitches? Thankfully I was able to reach our doctor friend in Lanzhou by phone who said he didn’t think we needed to travel back to Lanzhou. We could try the nearby clinic for stitches if we wanted to, but sometimes stitches leave their own criss-crossing scars if they’re not done well. Another option (and the one we chose) was to cut the sticky ends off band aids and use them to hold the two sides of the skin together. The wound would heal; it would just be a matter of what kind of scar would be left behind.

Isn’t that true in life as well?

I really appreciate what Alan Nelson writes about being wounded and the healing process in Embracing Brokenness: How God Refines Us Through Life’s Disappointments. He describes what happens “when we fail to respond to the breaking process with an attitude of surrender.”

“There is so much brokenness in the world. Broken people and broken lives fill counseling centers, bars, and urban gutters daily. They clog the freeways. Many show up at church. We rarely find someone who is either not in a state of brokenness or has no vivid memories of such a time, unless the memories are repressed. There are positive and negative responses to the breaking process...Just because a person goes through a time of breaking does not mean the result will be good. Most people end up broken in the wrong places.”

“People who go bankrupt, lose their health, are fired or laid off from a job, experience divorce, suffer from an addiction, burn out, have their teens run away, are depressed, and so on, are all experiencing breaking events. Spurned relationships, dreams that never become reality, and disappointments can all break us. However, when we respond ineffectively to these processes, we will end up broken in our will to live, in our emotions, in our self-image, in our finances, and in our relationships. This approach to the breaking results in anger, bitterness, hate, and even suicide or murder, and requires inner healing. When healing does not take place, people age as empty shells or what they used to be, stagnant and dwarfed. We all have met people like this, people who grow old and cynical. God doesn’t want us broken in these ways. The negative emotional effects of such a breaking are disastrous.”

“John Donne discovered that the most growth takes place in times of affliction. Some lessons can only be learned by loss, whether a loss of love, or health, or pride, or materialism, or hope, or whatever. The seasoning process requires us to get a little salt into our wounds. Donne realized that ‘trials had purged sin and developed character. Poverty had taught him dependence on God and cleansed him of greed; failure and public disgrace had helped cure him of worldly ambition. A clear pattern emerged: Pain could be transformed, even redeemed. He got his mind off himself and onto others.’ This may help explain the difference between being broken in the right place and being broken in the wrong places, perhaps better called woundedness. There is a difference between being broken and being wounded. The broken person, although feeling wounded and hurt, is truly on the road to healing. The person whose hurts do not result in spiritual breaking becomes a wounded person. Usually wounded people have emotional sores that resist healing, either because they are infected or because the “victim” keeps reopening them.”

“The walking wounded are individuals who have experienced some form of physical, financial, emotional, relational, or other breaking, but who have not allowed that breaking to bring them to a realization of their deep need to depend on God.”

“Spiritual brokenness cleanses our wounds so that healing can take place naturally and by whatever other  means may be necessary. When we are not broken in the right places, infection is likely to enter and the results are often as bad or worse than the original injury. When we are broken in the wrong places, we become self-centered. Our broken emotions keep us from loving effectively. We shun future settings where further hurt could take place.”

“Look around you. The older you get, the more you see people who have lost the twinkle in their eyes. They have endured tough circumstances, but not successfully. There is a wide difference between being weather-beaten and being seasoned and matured. The masses internalize the pain instead of letting it actually be a part of their healing process...Being broken in the heart, in the soul, where God can do something with your will and character, is a matter of converting, sanctifying the actual pain, and making it a part of the healing salve. You cannot do it on your own, God must. But you must be willing.”

“Remember Jesus’ question to the poor invalid who was lying beside the pool of Bethesda? ‘Do you want to be healed?’ Jesus was not being cruel. He was not being naïve as to the man’s daily existence for decades. Jesus was all knowing, and because He is all-knowing, Jesus recognizes that each of us has the God-given right to make our own choices. No one can take that prerogative from us, and until we choose to let go and let God have His will and way in our lives, we cannot receive healing.”

What do your wounds look like? Have they allowed you to be “broken in the right place” and on the road to healing or are you one of the “walking wounded”?

Have you internalized your pain or have you allowed it to become part of your healing process? How does God want to transform and redeem the disappointment and loss in your life? Will you let Him?

“Until we choose to let go and let God have His will and way in our lives, we cannot receive healing.”

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