“Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those weep”
– Romans 12:15
Too often a “return to rejoicing” is expected when the appropriate thing to do is to weep, even by the one whom life has wounded at times. “Am I ever going to get through this?” some think, those near to them may be wondering the same thing and it is at those times that things are often said that seem uncaring and hurtful. Those wounded are expected to have scarred over by now and returned to full function when the right thing would actually be continued wound care, weeping, compassion and understanding. Again, it is important to note that there are times when it is clear that someone has failed to move forward in a healthy manner and that appropriate action should be taken. Seek help from a Christian mental health professional or if it is anger and doubts about God then a pastor should be sought out to give counsel from the word when it becomes clear that you or someone else is being shaped by the event and failing to develop a scar. I am reminded of a couple who had constant problems in their marriage and I was consistently surprised at the immature manner that the wife approached conflict resolution in their relationship until I found out she lost her mother before she was a teenager. In some ways, though a successful business professional, she was still 12 years old when it came to facing emotionally difficult circumstances. It became clear that there was improper wound care early in her life that left her unprepared to deal with emotional situations. Her response to some of the emotional, yet ordinary, circumstances in life was on the level of some great life tragedy and was unusually disproportionate to the situation. Something that happened years ago was the control mechanism for her emotions. The wound was still open because it had not received the proper care and Dancing with the Scar of her mother’s death and never been achieved. Wounds become scars when they happen on the body and they must do so as well when they happen in the heart and the mind.
This also reminds us that all major wounds leave scars and emotional and physical wounds are no exception as they leave behind evidence of the moment of impact or the event. One of the more difficult things to deal with as a compassionate friend or loved one is childhood and early life traumas that you were not present for the point of impact but clearly see the aftermath of the scars from the past. Those who saw a loved one lying on the hospital bed or attended the funeral of a friend’s spouse or child can more readily understand the aftermath and the pain. However, when someone was not present or a part of someone’s life when the trauma occurred we need to remember that not being an eyewitness to the cause of the scar does not lessen the pain of the event in the life of the one who encountered it. I have had more people than I care to remember who have come to my office and shared stories of hard-hearted statements made by those who expected them to be better by now or “over it” or just didn’t want to deal with it because they weren’t there and don’t understand. Imagine someone injured in a car accident and had a large laceration on their leg. Maybe you didn’t know them when it happened but heard it was a major injury and required many stitches. Because it happened 20 years ago would you expect them to roll up their pant leg and there would be no scar? Of course not and the same is true for early life emotional and mental injuries. All major wounds leave scars, even in the lives of Christians, including the unseen areas of the mind and heart.
This brings us to an area of life that many experiences in our day and that is when the pain inflicted upon you was not the devastating “life happens” type of trauma but the unresolved pains and traumas forced upon you by someone else’s betrayal or sin. The molested child, the betrayed spouse, the person who is wronged by another yet that person is unrepentant and indifferent to the pain they caused. It is often true that the loss of a loved one is easier to recover from than the betrayal of someone who still lives yet is unconcerned about the pain they caused you now or early in life. To hurt over something from the past is not a lapse of faith or a lack of trust, faith doesn’t remove the scar on the leg of the accident victim nor does it remove it from the mind and emotions of those wounded in life. Yes, God transforms and renews the mind, yes God sets us free indeed. But we would do well to remember the saying; The only man-made thing in heaven will be the scars on Jesus. Scars are reminders of the past and they are part of God’s design of the human body and psyche. I have a large scar on my knee from an injury that occurred in 3rd grade that required multiple stitches inside and out and I was immobilized and sat in a wheelchair or chair for some time before I was able to put weight on it. It was even longer before I could start to bend my knee without fear of tearing the stitches. Third grade was a long time ago for me and yet the scar, though somewhat faded, is highly visible when wearing shorts. The reason I share that is, for the most part, no one knows that I have this scar. I don’t think about it at all and it has not hindered my ability to walk, run or do anything else that requires mobility, but, even writing this I can see the whole scene in my mind. I remember sitting up and looking at the tear in my pants and then looking inside the tear and the huge and gaping wound in my leg, I remember falling backward and just laying there until someone came to help. The scar is evidence of a much bigger story. This needs to be recognized by those who have someone in their life who has a scar that they acquired earlier in life that you weren’t present for. They may not be comfortable talking about it and it may be something that was decades ago like my knee injury but it still stirs up negative feelings and heartache. Time may allow a wound to form a scar but scars are not necessarily painless.
Excerpt from “Dancing With the Scars” now available on Amazon.