“You’ll heal on the outside faster than on the inside,” she quipped as we wrapped up our post-op visit earlier this week. My surgeon is a wise lady, and her words are true in more ways than one.
Healing is an interesting thing.
It has layers.
It takes time.
It can be supported but not rushed.
And it begins within moments of the injury.
While resting and healing from the surgery, I’ve been reading an intriguing little book called “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die” by Karol Truman. And, though there’s a bit of chaff to sort from the wheat (as in all things!), I’ve found her insights compelling and her suggestions profound. They resonate with much of what I’ve experienced over the last few years.
About two years ago I was recovering from our first miscarriage and questioning the meaning of life – mine in particular. Phil and I were (and still are!) crazy in love and enjoying doing life together after so many years of singleness. But, faced with our challenges to conceive, I grappled with what life could or should look life if God chose to withhold the blessing of children.
In the midst of processing that, the revelations about Bill Gothard and the Institute began to unfold, driving me to another level of grief. For most of my life I had looked up to this man and, both consciously and sub-consciously, I was profoundly influenced by his formula-based approach to life. (Hardly anything “new” there!) As the organization in which I had invested a significant amount of my life came crumbling down, I turned inward and upward trying to understand.
Simply stated: I didn’t expect to be in my early 40s, childless, and questioning whether or not the ministry to which I’d sacrificed my health was worth it. I had been taught that if I followed certain supposedly-biblical principles, I would experience “true success,” which was most often defined (for women) as being a loving wife, the keeper of a home filled with children, and, presumably, healthy.
My life didn’t fit the mold. So what was I to do?
I could tell you I had come to believe that my most important purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but I didn’t know what that should look like in practice.
The answers have come in surprising ways over the past months, weeks, and days. Physical healing is a process that begins immediately following a trauma. My cells started reconnecting before the doctor stitched the ligaments, tendons, and muscles, glued the skin in place and taped my belly back together. And though painful, this time of recovery has been a tremendous gift because it has allowed me (forced me, really!) to be still and afforded space for reflection on what God has done and is doing to heal emotional layers as well as physical.
I imagine we all grapple with the feeling that “Life isn’t turning out the way I expected” at some time and at some level. When tempted to linger in that place, it helps me to focus on the realities that God’s love and sovereignty are unshakable and there’s no way I missed “Plan A” and ended up on a dead-end street somehow walled away from His best.
C.S. Lewis once said,
“The great thing if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life … the truth is of course that what one calls interruptions are precisely one’s real life –
the life God is sending you day by day.”
And King David wrote,
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:14)
So, THIS day is the one God foreknew and scripted for me today. There’s peace in acceptance, and I choose to receive it.
As much as I didn’t want the surgery and tried all manner of ways to avoid it, I’m grateful for the time of reflection. I needed healing I was incapable of accomplishing on my own. So, God sent a skilled surgeon to cut me open and excise the thing that was continually pulling me out of balance physically. And, in doing so, He created a place for healing some wounds that run much deeper than muscle and skin.
One of the prevailing teachings in the Institute was the “Energy Giver” idea. The concept was that we all radiate energy, and we can choose whether our influence is positive (the giver), negative (the taker), or neutral (the waster). While I’ve come to believe that – from an electrical and chemical, scientific perspective – there is truth to this concept, its application was toxic for my body and soul.
In practice, this teaching meant stuffing every negative feeling and forcing the right kind of smile on my face. And, being a person with people-pleasing, perfectionistic tendencies to begin with, I was pretty darn good at it. But buried feelings don’t die. They fester. And, they blind us to the One who promises to be “near the broken-hearted and save the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) Ultimately, they blinded me to the true nature of Christ, the One who actively sought out the blind, the bruised, and the broken, not to condemn them for their humanity, but rather to make them whole.
God started knocking on the door of my buried feelings years ago when I starting taking classes at Westminster (now Redeemer) Seminary. The loving ministry of my husband convinced me to open the door wide once we were married. In due time, God walked through the door and, through the book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse,” began operating on the mess broiling behind my mask. Since then, countless sermons about grace have fallen on the wounds and helped to gently bind them. Quite unexpectedly for me, essential oils have even played a significant role in supporting and sustaining the healing process.
So now in this season post-surgery, this book “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die” is guiding the healing to some of those even-deeper inner layers. The author’s premise is that the negative emotions we bury have a direct bearing on our physical health. So, it’s to our advantage to call them what they are, release them, and replace them with God’s truth. Often (though not always), as the emotions heal on the inside, physical healing follows.
While I know that God sometimes chooses to withhold healing for purposes as mysterious as His decision to withhold children from some of those who would cherish them, Scripture is liberally sprinkled with truth about His perspective toward those who suffer. Here are some of the verses I’m savoring these days:
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5
“When He went ashore He saw a great crowd,
and He had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
“O LORD my God, I have cried to you for help, and You have healed me.”
If it’s true that our scars tell our stories, I think the ones we see give a glimpse of where we’ve been, but it’s the ones only Jesus sees that reveal the greater measure of His mercy.
I’m grateful to report that hidden healing is taking place here, one day – one emotion – at a time.
I love the hope expressed in this song by Selah! I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen and reflect on what won’t go unredeemed in your life.