February 7, 2007

Wounds and Scars

2007 1504 page6 capt happened in about two seconds. I was washing a crystal butter dish in the sink of our hall bathroom. Ignoring the little voice in my head telling me this wasn’t a good idea, I lathered the cover with dish detergent. I was almost ready to rinse when the cover slid from my hands. I tried to catch it before it hit the shallow, yellow sink. My hands were too slow, and as crystal met porcelain the broken shards popped up, slicing a deep “V” in each of my hands. Running the water over my cuts I sighed inwardly. I was going to need stitches.
After an hour in the ER, a physician’s assistant cleaned the cuts and tied the torn flesh back together. I left the ER sporting six nifty black sutures.
The next two weeks were filled with changing adhesive bandages, applying antibiotic ointment, and avoiding the use of the injured areas. This was no small feat as my left little finger and right palm had been punctured. Did I mention that I have an almost 3-year-old and an 8-month-old, and a job that requires me to type?
2007 1504 page6Eventually the cuts healed. Almost three months have passed, and it is rare that I even give the episode a thought. That is, until I shake someone’s hand. Or until I punch a key with a bit of force or hit my finger on something. Then I relive the experience all over again.
Human beings get hurt, and any injury—to body, mind, or soul—will leave a “scar.” Bump your head, and the next time you’re doing the same thing you’ll be more careful. Have an idea shot down at work, and at the next meeting you’ll be leery of offering your opinion. Expose your emotional vulnerability to someone who stomps all over it, and the next time a sharing moment arises you’ll be more likely to retract and guard your heart.
Eventually, most wounds heal. But they always leave scars. Take, for example, the discouraging life path a friend of mine has taken. In the year following high school she went to college, met an Army guy, married him, dropped out of college, and moved to Alaska, where he got stationed. After two anguished years of mental abuse and depression, she saw her marriage end in divorce. Less than a year after that, my friend started dating someone with a drinking problem and a prison record. After several stormy years and the birth of a son, she left him. Why did she seemingly set herself up for failure? It is pain, the wounds. She never healed entirely from the wounds of her checkered childhood. The scars burned in her, and she couldn’t buck the vicious cycle she was in.
Life is not easy—this is hardly something that should astonish. Since that day when our first parents played the blame game in Eden, we’ve been warned (Gen. 3:14-19). And while we’ve also been provided healing and comfort for those times when we are injured, we will always have the scars. The key to survival is how we deal with those scars.
My scarred skin covers an old injury that still painfully flairs up. Here is how I deal with these moments: I recognize what I did (or what happened to me) to cause the problem. Then I figure out the next proactive step, which might be exercising more care with typing or remembering to ask someone not to squeeze my hand too hard.1
When something happens to draw our attention to our scars—and the injury responsible for them—we have choices. We can allow them to interfere, or we can seek help.2  We can be drawn back into the pain, or we can push through it with our best Friend. It is no easy task, but we must not wallow in the old experience or perpetuate pain. We must reach for help.
And remember this: Even though our past wounds will haunt us through the faintest remnants of hurt, or the deep, soul-gouging ice-pick prick of pain—or something in between—it won’t continue forever. Christ will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. There will also be no scars.3
No wounds. No scars.
1I am not comparing my fairly insignificant flesh wound with the pain and injury my friend has suffered. My experience merely serves as an explanatory device.
2First, and foremost, from Christ. And in the case of my friend, a professional counselor, pastor, etc.
3In Revelation 21:5 God is quoted as saying, “I am making everything new!”

Kimberly Luste Maran as an assistant editor of Adventist Review.