Hiding From Healing

Voices floated across the warm placid air, carrying to my hiding place beneath the trailer table. “Has anyone seen Tonya? We can’t find her anywhere.” The urgency in the muffled question almost propelled me from the protection of my secret spot. I willed myself to become as small as possible as I listened to the voices trail away across the field outside and felt the sweet relief of remaining undiscovered wash over my huddled frame. Only too soon I knew someone would think to recheck the trailer, and then the pain would start again. I knew it was a temporary respite, but for now, I was safe. Hidden. My arm encased in the cast that had been my companion for months.

My earliest memories are of agony. Of a medicinal smell tinged with the fragrance of blood. Of pleading any words I could muster and fighting with every ounce of my petite frame to force my parents to stop. I recall being assured how much I was loved, that this was the best thing for me, but only wanting to run and hide from the daily torture of my life. It was that desire to flee that found me crouched in a stiflingly hot trailer as the sweltering summer afternoon faded towards twilight, praying that this day I might escape the inevitable.

It took over a decade before I glimpsed the extent of my parent’s devotion to me. And only 20 years later, after experiencing parenthood myself did I truly understand their willingness to struggle with me through heartache and gut-wrenching pain so that I could face life without a permanent reminder of the accident that almost scarred my life forever. The accident. At the age of five, as a freckled, exuberant pixie, I fell while twirling and rolled straight into the side of a barrel of burning trash. From my knuckles to my shoulder my flesh was singed. Scorched. Destroyed. Through the layers of sun spotted skin, the blazing metal demolished my tissue down to the nerves. I suffered third degree burns. Even with proper treatment, horrible scarring would almost certainly be the result.

In God’s eternal graciousness, my mother’s best friend “happened” to be a nurse at Seattle’s premiere burn unit. Harborview. She rescued me from a lengthy stay in the burn unit by assuring the doctors that with her oversight, my parents would do whatever necessary to treat me at home, and would return me weekly to Harborview’s capable staff for check-ups, thorough treatments and admission to the burn center, should the at-home care prove insufficient for my recovery. However, in relieving me of the loneliness of a hospital stay, she sentenced me to the realities of burn treatment without drugs to dull the pain, or professional staff to shield my mother and father from my daily screams of anguish.

Burns of this magnitude and depth cannot be just left alone to heal on their own. Our bodies will quickly scab over such wounds in an attempt to protect them, but the deep void beneath becomes a breeding ground for infection. In addition, not allowing the burn to heal inside up is what ultimately results in scars. The only solution is to repeatedly remove all scabs, opening the wound multiple times a day, washing, medicating and re-bandaging it until the burned tissue regrows from the deepest parts out. The process takes months. Multiple times a day, my father had to pin me down while my mother scrubbed the newly growing skin off my arm, revealing the slowly healing burns beneath. It was his six-foot frame that steadied and vainly attempted to comfort me because fueled by pain and adrenaline, my 40 pound body could overpower my mother. Once a week I returned to the hospital burn unit to be scrubbed down by professionals, where, breathing in drugged air, I laughed and joked with the staff as blood covered my arm. Days stretched to weeks into months, the repeated horribly familiar cycle becoming almost normal. Until at last, fresh skin covered my wounds and was allowed to remain. To this day, my mom’s nurse friend marvels that I’m the only patient she’s ever seen to come through third degree burns with no scarring.  Zero. None. A testament to my parent’s unyielding love and devotion to do what was best, regardless of the daily emotional toll it took on all of us. You would never guess which arm suffered such a traumatic event. I even recovered all my freckles. A miracle I’m thankful for every day.

Freckles

I was reminded of this painful period of my life this morning in church. With this scripture 1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

The imagery of “fiery trial”, is obviously applicable in a very real sense for me. To this day, 30 years later, any analogy involving fire instantly makes me uncomfortable as the symbolism hits too close to home. This morning, as I scribbled down my thoughts, for the first time it occurred to me that healing from a severe burn replicates our need for healing from the wounds caused by the fiery trials of our earthly life. Betrayal, lies, broken relationships, disappointment, anger, resentment all inflict emotional damage that burn past the surface, to the nerves of our souls. Our natural instinct is to scab over these hurts. To insulate our pain and develop a crusty outer layer. But is this really healing? To pretend that wounds don’t exist? We hear to “just move on”, to “get over it” and that seems to make sense, but is it truly what’s best for our souls?

Maybe we need daily emotional scrubbing. Perhaps our wounds are best bandaged by continually opening up the ugly rawness to the tender hands of the Lord. The irony of third degree burns is that because of the damage to the nerves, the actual burns are not what causes agony. It’s the regrowth of the tissue that hurts. The burgeoning sensors of pain bursting to life as healing takes place is truly torture. I think our emotional trauma is the same way. Better to leave the scorched damaged memories buried and unscoured than open ourselves up to the tremendous suffering of true and lasting healing. Processing our pain and allowing the inward change that comes from turning our hurts over to the Father is the emotional equivalent of my childhood torment. It feels awful. We feel vulnerable. The ache is consuming. It doesn’t seem worth it. We just want the pain to stop. To go back to cowering under our table. Praying nobody will find us. Pretending it isn’t there. But just as my parents searched me out, our Lord wants to meet us in our hiding places and walk with us in the hard painful parts of life. To comfort us amid overwhelming circumstances. Seeing us through the fiery trials of this world into forever healing, not just temporary scabs or permanent scars. Allowing us to come forth through the anguish to find exceeding joy and freedom on the other side.

Devotional – Walking Away

Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

I read once that integrity is doing the right thing – even when nobody is watching. The fact is, it’s really difficult for our private thoughts and actions to mirror those up for public consumption. Even harder for me than achieving personal integrity is the unrest I feel when in my relationships with others, things don’t add up. There’s a disquieting of my mind as I try to think thru conversations and understand the motivation of others. There are things in my life I don’t want to talk about with others. Areas I’m ashamed of. While I can be honest with myself about where my personal convictions stand, I will never know the whole picture behind someone else’s actions. I cannot possibly hope to understand what drives others responses in life. The full truth of where they are. But God does. Continue reading

Devotional – Rules…and Wisdom

2 Timothy 2:5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

This verse is kind of a side note for today – but I had to put it in here. I get a lot of grief for being competitive, clarifying the rules and expecting everyone to play by the established understood guidelines. In life, in sports, games – whatever. I want to know what the rules are, and I want everyone to be playing by those rules. Cheaters drive me nuts. Seriously. Absolutely crazy. I do not understand why on earth you would cheat to be the winner. What exactly did you win, if you cheated? I have always said that winning is worthless if you didn’t get there honestly. I learned that lesson after I cheated to win when playing “Sweet Valley High” with my sisters in 7th grade. Yeah sure I made it to the dance and had my boyfriend in tow…but I felt like a total loser because I knew I cheated. And now look – I found in my devotional reading today this verse that totally backs me up. Hooray. Now, on to the real guts of what God taught me today. Continue reading

Devotional – Worldly Is As Worldly Does

1 Corinthians 3:3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?

Ouch. Zing! Just in case any of us thought we were obeying all the little Bible rules and are therefore somehow better than the next guy…guess what? You’re not. I’m not. None of us are.

In this installment (number 37 by my count) of God’s lesson entitled “Everybody Stinks”, I read today in 1 Corinthians about people quarrelling, fighting and generally being divided over who’s following the right rules. The people of Corinth were taking issue with each other over which church leader their neighbors were following – who was better. Like somehow it actually mattered – that it was a big enough deal for them to be separated because of it. And Paul sets them straight, without any sugar-coating. I think I would have liked Paul.
Continue reading

Devotional – Predicting Responses

Mark 11:31-33 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) 33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

It’s interesting to me how often a group of very educated people can’t come up with a simple answer to a basic question. Election day was yesterday and whatever side of the aisle you fall on, we can all probably agree that politicians in general use way too many words to ultimately not say very much of substance. Trying to please everyone, quite often leads to what I like to call mamby-pamby speech. Basically, not taking a hard stand on anything for fear that it will turn people off. Continue reading

Devotional – Sewing = Washing & Ironing

Mark 2:21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.

Seriously?! I know I say this all the time, but GOD IS AMAZING!!

Ok. A little background for those of you who were not at my friend Emily’s baby shower on Tuesday. After the delicious food and the oooohing and ahhhhing over the adorable baby girl stuff, we were discussing sewing. Earlier this year, I learned how to sew. A few awesome ladies in my church taught me how one afternoon. Pretty much the first thing they told me was that after you bring home your cloth, you have to wash all your fabric and then iron it. Before you ever get to sew anything, comes the initial wash and iron. I was sharing this information with my girlfriends who (rightly so) were very turned off of “sewing” because of the labor intensive wash/iron before ever getting to use a needle. “But” I explained, “It’s totally necessary to do that because otherwise, you’ll sew new fabric together and when you wash it the first time it will shrink and your seams will all come apart.”

So I say again — seriously? I mean, just re-read that verse from Mark. How perfect is God? Wow. Continue reading

Devotional – Delighted to Know You

Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

I love people. Some of the most fulfilled moments in my life are when I really connect with another human being. That’s probably why it hurts me so much when I feel disliked, judged, misunderstood or outright lied about. Pretty much, I want to be liked by everyone. When it is wholly apparent that someone seems to loathe me, especially when it seems to be for reasons I can neither control nor change, it’s possibly the deepest wound I can bear. It hurts me beyond measure when someone’s aversion to me affects those I love. I really don’t know how to handle it.

You can probably tell, I’m struggling with a personal relationship right now. But you know what? God is faithful. I am not an early bird, but this morning, I awoke at 5 o’clock and couldn’t get back to sleep. I had a rough afternoon yesterday, discovering a duplicity that shocked me, and wrestled with my own emotions for hours before sleep finally came. The battle continued as soon as my eyes opened this morning. I tried to work it off at the gym, but still felt unsettled when I got home. I should have known to go to God first. This verse in Zephaniah (a book I don’t think I’ve ever read before) was like a soothing balm to my soul. As I re-read the verse, God’s love overwhelmed human hatred. I remembered that it really doesn’t matter what someone else thinks. It’s not important. I am precious to the Lord. He delights in me. What an amazing thought! Not just that He knows who I am, or that He occasionally checks in on how I’m doing. He delights in me. This same word (suws) is used in Isaiah 62 to describe a groom delighting in his bride. That’s how highly God thinks of me. Wow.

So really, how can I let the resentments and judgements of one little person affect me if I know I’m all good with God? Later in this passage (vs 19) God talks about dealing with those who oppress me – giving praise and honor where I’ve been put to shame. I am a fixer. It’s what I do. If something is wrong, I want to talk about it – out in the open and deal with it. But sometimes, that just adds fuel to a situation that’s being manipulated already. I need to rest in the knowledge that God has my back. I don’t need to prove my worth, argue my convictions or convince anyone to like me. I just need to respond in love, not allowing anger over the hurt to take hold, realizing that the only One who matters is already delighted to know me.

Oh Jesus, thank you so much for being with me this morning as I struggle with hurt. Thank you for calming my aching heart with your love and showing me (again) that the situations of life are never outside your command. Help me to hold on to your peace thru all conversations – to cling to your word’s promises and not allow the ugliness of revenge and resentment to seep into my relationships.