As a cautious (and tall) human I have learned to avoid the edge of cliffs, the side of countertops, stray light fixtures, etc. But accidents are inevitable. Last year I had what I hope will remain the most clutzy injury of my life — I walked into a tree.
To be fair, trees in Southeast Portland pose a danger to all, with their swooping limbs precariously venturing into the middle of sidewalks. I was innocently walking the dog ... while showing my roommate something on my phone, and ran smack into the branch. I walked away with a black eye and a bleeding forehead. After cleaning out the wound and determining I didn't need stitches, I moved awkwardly forward with Steri-Strips and Neosporin in hand, confident that my face would heal itself.
One week later, a piece of bark (oh my gosh, is this bark?!) found its way out of my forehead. When another painfully slow week produced a second, larger piece of bark, I thought, "This has got to be it." My wound closed up, but the swelling did not go down. It was at this point I was pretty sure Voldemort had decided to make my forehead his eighth horcrux.
My wise roommates (medical professionals, don't try this at home kids) said something to the effect of, "That ain't right," and surgically removed a THIRD piece of bark.
I learned quite quickly that when you consistently have bark coming out of your forehead, metaphors abound. But, I kept coming back to one.
We cannot heal what we do not address.
Life is messy. People will let you down. Plans will fail. You'll be hurt physically, mentally, emotionally. We all know this, and we tend to address most issues as they come up. But, there are some issues we bury deep, deep enough to convince ourselves they don't exist. Those issues that, because they don't exist, definitely don't affect us.
In reality, the things we refuse to address or even acknowledge, those are the things that continue to swell. It’s that grudge causing us to refuse to give or accept grace. It’s that insecurity causing us to live out of a place of fear instead of freedom. It’s that unrealistic standard causing us to view love as something that must be earned.
Maybe you feel it whispering as you read this — that thing buried deep below the surface. Chances are, it's not going to heal itself. Sometimes all you need in order to heal is time, but often, at least from what I've seen in my own life, it usually takes time and _____. Time and forgiveness. Time and persistence. Time and truth-telling. Time and bravery.
We must consciously decide to reopen wounds and dig into the darkness. There is work involved in healing — in keeping a wound clean enough to mend. Sometimes, with enough Neosporin/Rosehip Oil/(fill in your hippie cure here), we might not even scar. Other times there will be a scar, but it will come with a story to share, one that might help others to heal in the future.