My niece has a flair for dramatics. She was in top form last summer after her first big stumble on the sidewalk. It wasn’t serious—just a scraped knee. She took it hard though.
The family room became her recovery ward, and the couch, her sickbed. There she encamped with her leg propped up, a tissue covering the wound like a protective surgical drape.
Her older brothers, however, did not recognize the seriousness of the situation. When they roared through the room veering threateningly close to her tender wound, she let them know it—”Stop playing near my owie!” she shrieked. Ahhh … the plain speech of a child!
It served as a mirror to my own soul.
Those words have echoed within me—not as the result of a physical stumble, but rather from emotional ones. This has been my cry after hitting the pavement of heartache that leaves my insides a stinging, raggedy mess. And as I lie downtrodden by the scrapes of snubs and insults as well as the deeper piercings of betrayals and disappointments, I react just as my niece did: I set up a recovery ward in the midst of life, expecting others to take precautions and have pity and work around me.
Settling into my emotional sickbed, I want everyone to “stop playing” so close to my wounded heart. I worry they won’t be careful enough, and I don’t want to be bumped—that tender place is in enough pain already. And I certainly don’t want to be disturbed—guarding that wound is taking all the energy I can muster.
When my recovery ward goes unnoticed in the land of the living, irritation rises and indignant thoughts emerge: Can’t they see I’m hurting here? Can’t they be more considerate of all I’m going through?
But no, people cannot see the invisible. Emotional wounds are just that: hidden below the surface, offering only symptomatic proof of existence. People cannot be expected to interpret the random signs that manifest in the light. My niece’s wound was visible, in the open—it was obvious why she was on the defense. She was able to point specifically (proudly, even) to her reason for needing some extra space and grace. The nature of emotional pain, however, prompts me to close up and cover over in shame and regret and sorrow. People cannot readily see these mysteries within me. And it takes a brave, courageous soul to explain the wounds that led to recovery-ward living.
Sadly, when I’m nursing my wounds and stuck in bed, courage makes itself scarce, and I don’t have the strength to track it down. Without courage to voice my pain, life buzzes on about me and around me. More than anything, I want someone to enter my roughed-up world. I don’t want to be alone.
But often the very wounds that cry out for company also sound off a counter message that keeps others at bay. Wounds produce an array of off-putting behaviors—overreactions, suspicions, guardedness. Who wants to come closer to a prickly pear? I sabotage the very companionship I long for. I’m often my own worst enemy and hindrance to fellowship and healing.
Giving voice to this need for healing fellowship and giving context to my prickliness is crucial if I want someone to stop and take notice of my battle scars, if I want someone to pull up a chair and stay with me until strength returns. Healing comes this way, in community, when love pours out to cover the wounds caused by a multitude of sin.
A friend of mine has joked for years that we women should wear signs listing our soul wounds by name—then we could connect with kindred spirits who have the same tender spots. And perhaps knowing the wounds others struggle with would motivate us to grant more space and grace to the people we don’t understand or don’t click with.
Even though this roll call of wounds isn’t likely, maybe the intent behind it is possible: I could extend space and grace to those whose prickly pear reflexes have kicked in. I could assume that an awkward interaction with another gal is due to wounds unseen (hers and mine). I could remember that each one of us is wounded, laid-up in our sickbeds, and struggling to return to the land of living.
For example, what if a gruff greeting is all that a hurting soul could muster—I could go with grace and assume it’s not an intentional insult. In grace, I could trust that an overreaction is due to a heart hanging by a thread, rather than interpreting it as a personal attack. I could let grace abound by choosing to believe that a withdrawn soul is a sister just too weary to relate to others—rather than feeling slighted by her aloofness. With grace, I could presume that stubborn, sturdy boundaries are protecting some unseen trampled and tender area—rather than taking it as a deliberate snub.
Yes, if I could make these assumptions about people, space and grace would be multiplied. What a difference a change in assumptions could make.
And what if, in addition to such positive assumptions, I took the time to scoot my sickbed closer to someone else’s and enter into the roughed-up world of another? What if I listened to her battle accounts and brightened her recovery room for a few moments? I could ask about the protective surgical drapes covering her soul. I could listen to the whole painful mess that mangled my sister’s inner world.
This sort of transparent community building is described in 1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” True fellowship is possible when I walk openly and honestly in the purifying, healing, cleansing light of Jesus. This is fellowship that heals.
Jesus is my model, for He has come, entering our roughed-up world and mangled, messy hearts. He is the healing balm for all wounds, all relationships. When I walk with Him in the light of His mercy, I begin to heal and can walk away from my sickbed. And as I fellowship with the Lord Jesus, I become aware of the scars He bears—the scars that bought my healing—and become more sensitive to the scars of others, extending them the care and patience they need to get well too.
In the absence of a roll call of wounds pinned to our shirts, I’ll have to give people the benefit of the doubt: When someone reacts with a “stop-playing-near-my-owie” attitude, I’ll lend them some space and grace and scoot my sickbed a bit closer.
Someone in the recovery ward is in desperate need of the fellowship that heals.
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
If so, you’re in the right place. Whether you need encouragement in your relationships or in your faith, I hope you’ll find the transparent voices of mentors and friends here at Ungrind.
So, grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We're so glad you're here!
Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
Get Our Free Ebook!
3 Ways to Navigate Personality Differences
Sometimes personality differences can wear on us. Here are three ways we can navigate them in a loving manner.
Surprised By ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’
If you haven't seen this film, God may speak to your heart through it in ways you weren't expecting.
The Wedding Ring
Are you struggling in your marriage? Here's how a wedding ring helped one wife fight for her marriage.
5 Ways to Live an Out-of-Control Life
Here are 5 ways to let go of control and trust your present and your future to God.
5 Creative Places to Find Prayer Accountability
Do you want to pray more, but are easily distracted? Here are some practical ways to stay focused.
How to Rescue a Day Gone Wrong in Your Marriage
Just because a day doesn't start well, doesn't mean you can't rescue it.
How To Change Your Life in 10 Minutes
Here's how you can change your life with a simple 10 minutes a day.
What Women Are Saying
-- Darlene Schacht, author of Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages and co-author of Reshaping it All: Motivation for Spiritual and Physical Fitness
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.
Faith4 years ago
When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds
Motherhood4 years ago
Surviving a Strong-Willed Child
Faith4 years ago
7 Ways to Create A Family Altar
Friendship5 years ago
Beyond the Registry: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Expectant Parents
Relationships2 months ago
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Hear God
Marriage6 years ago
4 Reasons I’m Not Facebook Friends With My Husband
Everyday Faith4 years ago
6 Simple Ways to Give Thanks in the Thick of It
Articles5 years ago
10 Ways Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
Articles7 years ago
How to Lift Up the One You Love
Articles5 years ago
Relationships7 months ago
Facing Our Motherhood Fears
Digging Into Scripture2 months ago
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions