Thirty winters ago I stepped my right foot straight down on the upturned end of a wire hanger. The pain stuck around for nearly a month. After new skin finally covered the puncture wound, which rested in between the “piggy who went to market” and the “piggy who stayed home,” my foot felt perfectly fine. Day after day, I walked, ran, skipped and danced without remembering that wire hanger or the damage it had caused.
My flesh had healed. My toes were fine. Until I slipped on a pair of flip flops. The second the plastic thong nestled between my toes I gasped with pain. I’m not referring to discomfort or mild throbbing. I’m talking about a sharp, shrilling sensation shooting from sole to spine. It took just three steps and four yelps for me to yank off those sandals and slide into sneakers.
Not long after I removed the flip flops my foot felt better. I did what any respectable 12-year-old girl would do. I blamed the shoes and hunted for a new, softer pair. I tried on flop after flop, but the results remained constant and agony accompanied each step. I gave up on flip flops that summer and decided to try again the following year. Same results. Year after that? No flip flops for me. Still today, the only summer shoe I can rock is the slide sandal.
So here’s what happened. The metal so dug deep and wide into my flesh it left a gaping hole that required immediate repair. My body set off an alarm and my cells quickly took action to accomplish one critical task: stop the bleeding. Fibers and collagen bonded and filled the chasm until my foot was fixed. Today, three decades later, each and every time that skin is pressed — even the gentlest touch — I jump, yelp and pant for air.
Some scars hurt.
Our emotions aren’t all that different from our bodies. Hearts bashed in still beat. Souls sliced up still sing. Spirits sucked all but dry still cry out for water. We hurt. We heal. We move on. For those of us who walk with Jesus, we often feel stronger after we survive a trial, because brokenness leads to wholeness.
Can one even truly be whole without first being broken? I don’t think so.
Yet some emotional cuts sever so far into our core that we’re fooled into believing they are better long before they actually heal. The cause of the pain varies from person to person and often we carry several knotted balls of hurt inside without even realizing they’re there, until something nudges them to the forefront.
This is what I call “emotional scar tissue.” Often the culprit that touches my emotional scar tissue can be as small as a friend not responding to a text or my husband sighing in frustration if I make a mistake. Just a tap of insult here and a dash of forgetfulness there in the right spot and ouch! If you’ve ever responded to mild criticism with wracking sobs or met a slight annoyance with unbridled rage, chances are great that someone or something provoked an old wound you thought had healed eons ago.
Sometimes I wonder if perhaps that’s what Paul was describing when he wrote about the “thorn in his flesh.” We can never know for certain, but it seems possible at least that he might have been referring to the subtle reminders of unflinching agony inflicted years before.
But here’s what I do know for certain.
Sometimes healing takes a long time, even after we’ve asked Jesus to take care of it.
And for as painful as it is, emotional scar tissue can be a gift. When it is hit and recognized, that pain provides an opportunity for the next level of healing to begin. Scars may look and feel ugly, but they can also be beautiful blessings.
Now, whenever someone brushes up against my emotional scar tissue, I begin to pray.
Sometimes I pray long and hard and sometimes I can only lovingly and pleadingly whisper Jesus’ name, but I know Who I need and I know I have not been abandoned with my pain.
Friend, is there an area in your life where emotional scar tissue has hardened around an old wound? If it has, it would be my honor to pray for you today. Please feel free to share your heart here or to silently cry out to God. While Jesus can heal deep pain all at once, sometimes the healing is steady, but slower moving than we’d like. If that’s where you are today, please know that you aren’t alone and you’re not forgotten. You are loved and every scar scratched on your heart is seen and will be redeemed.