Photo Credit: Katherine Siebert
Healing has been on my mind with almost every step for the last month. I broke the second toe on my left foot while water sliding with my kids. The slide was faster than I expected, and rounding the last corner, I was desperately trying to figure out how to avoid dunking the two-year-old in my arms. I did not succeed. Her head went under as my foot collided with the bottom of the pool.
It nearly returned to its normal size when, two weeks later, I broke it again. I was trying to keep that same toddler from running onto the street behind the dog leash she insisted on holding, I forgot about the space and rest my toe needed when my daughter and puppy needed me more. With the last step, I heard the little bone snap. And only after I heard it did I feel the pain.
The limp looked more like I’d been hit by a moving vehicle after the second break. People noticed. I was moved to the express line-up in the airport the next morning, and people kept offering to carry my bags, and waiting for me so they could hold the door. It was beautiful and embarrassing at the same time.
This month of careful walking has brought on a lot of thought about the space and time we need for healing. Our world rushes past us, drawing us into the false belief that we do not have time to wait or space for woundedness. But our wounds eventually demand the time and space they require. And when we do not give them that space, we risk breaking the wound open again, and sometimes worse than before.
The spiritual and emotional pain of our lives is every bit as real as the physical. Unfortunately, these hurts are often invisible, so others cannot notice and offer help. The wounds of the heart and soul are carried in silence and in secret: grief and loss, trauma and addictions, loneliness and fear.
As a part of a retreat I led in the last several days, I was praying with children, teaching them to meditate with the story of Jesus’ birth. And while we prayed together, two things filled my heart with longing and my eyes with tears. First, I was overwhelmed by the miracle of a God who comes to be with us, and with me. I do not feel worthy of such a gift, and too often, I am totally oblivious to how close God is. Second, I was all of a sudden overwhelmed with fear. I am afraid, I thought, and I have no idea why.
My life is full – maybe even busy, though I don’t like the way we use that word as a measure of our worth. Our beautiful kids, our meaningful work, the opportunities to serve our community. We gratefully receive and choose all this abundance. But I need more time and space for checking in with myself, for noticing the pain in my body and my soul. I need more space for healing.
I had this beautiful day of classes of kids coming to pray with me. They wiggled and squirmed, sang and shared, and those wonderful little people filled my soul with space. It took three hours but that fear finally made its way to my awareness. It hurt when I felt it. I wanted to cancel the rest of the time so I could avoid the fear. It had been eating away at my confidence, robbing my joy, and aching in a way that was not unlike my tender broken toe. The fear was swollen but I had been ignoring it in a way that my bones cannot take.
That fear surfaced as I continued to lead the kids through the prayer activity. Parts of the fear became clear and parts remain a mystery to me. I have been able to create some space for it, though. I let go of my expectation to have it all figured out. I gave myself permission to limp a little spiritually, calling a friend to talk about it, and asking God to both take my fear and love me in it. I took a walk, and felt the pain deeply from my toe and from my heart. I resisted the urge to run away from the pain.
And when I felt the pain of injury and the pain of letting it heal, when I told someone else about it, a space emerged where they poured out a bit of their weariness. The tears in the kitchen that followed ate away at some of that fear in me. I think I heard it crack, but this time, it was a tiny crack of healing.
I want my path to be covered in sunlight, smooth and easy, totally unbroken. But my desire and denial do not make it so. The shadows are cast by the sun across a cracked path. There is healing in this world for my body and my soul when I make space for the brokenness to be made whole, even if it hurts when the healing happens.