“This wound is completely open and I can still see the sutures inside.” This is not what you want to hear from the doctor a month after a minor operation. But it’s the situation I found myself in a few months ago.
I had a small benign cyst removed from my back. The minor surgery went well; I was told to keep the area clean and dry for a certain period, and the sutures would dissolve on their own and everything would heal in time.
I did my part but the sutures did not.
About a month after the surgery, after the initial scar tissue had formed and things seemed to be on their way to proper healthy healing, the wound started itching, became inflamed, and bled. This is strange, I thought to myself. We should be in the clear by now.
After days of trying to make an appointment with a doctor (any doctor - just let me see someone!), late one Saturday I found myself sitting in a small operating room with the surgeon inspecting my wound and gasping in surprise at what she found.
The self-dissolving sutures did not in fact dissolve, my body had a bad reaction to them, and was pushing them out through the top of the wound, causing it to rupture again. My scar was now an open flesh wound again.
They couldn’t sew it up again, so the only course of action was to manually remove the sutures from inside the wound and then let it heal itself from the inside out. I was told to dress it with a fresh non-adhesive foam pad every day. It was going to take a long time, but eventually it would take care of itself and heal, leaving a big scar.
Nearly three months later, I’m grateful to say we’re almost in the clear.
The grand irony of this whole situation is that it happened while I was taking a sabbatical. It became a sort of daily, lived-out illustration of the spiritual state I was in.
It got me thinking about the wounds in my heart that hadn’t healed properly. I thought I had done the necessary grieving steps, taken things to prayer in anguish and lament, centered myself on the Lord’s hope and faithfulness, and enough time had passed to heal them. Little did I know that some wounds don’t ever fully heal and open up again causing pain that needs to be re-addressed.
And when this happens, it usually requires a new way of dealing, a new way of healing. Just as I had to now treat my post-surgery wound differently in order for it to heal, so it is with the wounds of our heart. Sometimes when they reopen, we need to treat them differently. Maybe we’ve been ignoring the pain and hurt but have to now face it, lest it infects every part of us? Or perhaps we’ve done everything we can to forgive and move forward but still it opens up and bleeds pain and anguish into our souls? In both cases, I’m reminded of the gift of God’s grace and the need for us to continue to surrender ourselves to Him, learning to be gracious in the seeming ongoing defeat of our wounds, realizing that it is only He who can truly heal, and trusting even more into His care.
Another thing that struck me was the daily maintenance it was going to take in order to help the wound to heal. If I did not practice the discipline, the wound could become infected and worsen. I think this is true for our hearts as well. Surrendering our pain to the Lord is intentional on our part. It requires discipline. It requires practice.
Maybe we’re holding on to a hurt and need to practice the discipline of forgiveness before it festers and we need a spiritual antibiotic. Or maybe we feel God is the one who hurt us and we don’t want to turn to Him ever again. This too can cause an infection. Let’s practice the discipline of airing those grievances to Him instead of them before the wound spreads and reaches a point of another intervention.
When I was going through this experience, I kept wondering if it was worth it. Should I have just kept the cyst on my back? I seem to be in more discomfort now than before. How true these thoughts are for all the pain we experience! I could’ve left the cyst to its own devices, but who knows where that would lead years down the line? I had already left it long enough and it was bothering me.
Maybe the pain we’re in doesn’t seem worth it. The healing seems so far away to attain, so impossible to grasp. Maybe we think things were better before we started dealing with what has been hurting us. Maybe we’ve been caught by surprise at a wound reopening that we thought was healed. Whatever it is - in this life there will be pain. There’s no way around it. But how will we engage this pain? How will we deal with the hurts, betrayals, disappointments, disillusionments we encounter? Will we stick a band aid over them and hope for the best, or will we turn to the Great Physician who mends all wounds?
I know what I’m choosing, in the same way I chose to deal with the cyst on my back.
"I will give you back your health
and heal your wounds,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 30:17 NLT
God’s heart is stronger than our brokenness.