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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Scar Tissue

A lovely reminder about how we heal.  This article is timely considering a rather humbling wipe out I experienced while on a run about 90 days ago.  Luckily no one was around me to see the carnage of my humiliation (is that necessarily a good thing?).  I had giant strawberries on my elbow, knee and the palms of my hands, the likes of which I had not seen since my softball days in high school.  And I, too, watched in amazement, over a relatively short period of time, how these areas became new again from the inside out.  Truly, Christ heals us from the inside out.

My scars are still visible, but now I now know to avoid the loose gravel like bubonic plague!

Healing —  Burns, Blessings and Sacred Scars
By Margaret Silf (America: February 26, 2007) The pain of a broken
heart is far worse than the pain of a broken leg I put my hand in the
oven a few weeks ago and scorched myself on the heating element. In
normal times this would have been just another domestic accident—a
careless mistake for which my skin paid the penalty. But the times
were not normal. I was in a dark space following the breakdown of a
significant relationship; and this accident became an incident that,
in hindsight, has taken on something of the power of parable. My close
encounter with the grill left me, initially, quite oblivious of the
pain that was about to follow. As so often in these matters, the pain
of trauma is delayed. I recall once slicing off the tip of my finger
with an electric bread slicer (oh, the joy of our high-tech kitchen
aids!) and being genuinely surprised to see the blood issuing from the
wound, and the redesigned shape of my digit. It was a full few minutes
later before the searing pain kicked in.Now, as I reflect back, I can
see the same pattern revealed in the deeper, invisible traumas in our
lives. The initial shock of what has happened simply doesn’t sink in,
and we are granted a short respite of stunned numbness before our
minds and hearts have to begin to deal with the fallout.Needless to
say, my hand soon registered its displeasure at being so undeservedly
barbecued. For a while the wound screamed through my consciousness,
allowing me to think of little else, yet at the same time refusing to
allow itself to be touched with any kind of balm. It sat there, across
my hand, growing daily more livid and leaving me helpless either to
help myself or allow anyone else to help me.I realize now that my more
personal trauma was behaving in much the same way: taking over every
waking thought and every restless dream, yet repelling any attempts at
tender ministration. The wounded animal tends to bite the one who
would feed and care for it. The fact that we belong to that same
animal kingdom is particularly apparent when we are hurting.But then
the matter moved on again. Within a few days the pain began to
subside. It was possible to touch the wound, and to administer
soothing cream to it. I watched, not without a sense of wonder, how my
own body’s self-healing capabilities began to work. The angry redness
faded to a more conciliatory dark pink. The pain became less
insistent. The scorched skin gradually fell away, and I could see this
miraculous process unfolding before my eyes, as a new skin cover was
being created. Everything that had been damaged and destroyed was
being gently set aside, health was being restored, and a new beginning
was being woven. The pain was still there, but it no longer dominated
my mind. I was beginning to focus on the healing process instead, and
even to cooperate with it.The healing of an aching heart and
devastated feelings takes a lot longer than that. Maybe it takes a
lifetime. But my hand seemed to be telling me that healing is the real
thing, and that Dame Julian of Norwich got it right when she said that
“all shall be well.” My hand is teaching my heart to trust the mystery
that is ceaselessly striving for our greater good, out of whatever
facts we present. Day by day my skin has knitted back together, and
now all I have left to show for my destructive adventure is a slight
scar. I’m actually hoping that the scar never completely fades,
because it is something of an icon for me. It leads me through and
beyond itself to the place where I meet the Healer. It will always
remind me that whatever the trauma, the permanent reality in which we
live and move and have our being is about wholeness, not harm. One of
my favorite Scripture texts is the assurance in Jeremiah (29:11-12):
“I know what plans I have in mind for you, plans for peace, not for
disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Our scars are our
reminders, not just that we have been hurt but, more important, that
we have been healed.There is a custom among some Native American
peoples, that when someone is bereaved or suffers any kind of
traumatic loss, that person is invited to go out into the forest
carrying an axe, and to choose a special tree, to represent the aching
space of the loss or the breakdown. Once the tree has been selected,
the bereaved one (for every kind of loss in life is a bereavement),
strikes several sharp blows into the bark of the tree with the axe.
The wounds of the heart are inflicted, both symbolically and actually,
upon the tree. The tree is wounded but not destroyed, and from then on
the one who has suffered the loss is encouraged to visit the tree
regularly, and to be present to its gradual healing, over time, from
the wounds it has suffered. The tree and the mourner become one in
their pain and in their healing until eventually what they share has
become a deep and sacred scar.Our neighbors across the English Channel
enjoy an interesting linguistic quirk. The French word blesser, which
we anglophones are likely to associate with our word blessing,
actually means “to wound.” Since I uncovered this fact in my school
French lessons, I have always subconsciously linked “woundedness” and
“blessing” in my mind. My recent experience confirms that association.
In my darkest hour I begged God in prayer for a glimpse of light, an
angel’s touch, to guide me on. The next day I put my hand in the oven.
And God did the rest.

Margaret Silf lives in Staffordshire, England.
Her latest books are Companions of Christ: Ignatian Spirituality for
Everyday Living and the Catholic Press Association award-winning The
Gift of Prayer.

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