It was a normal school day in fourth hour. Some classmates were joking around, holding their iPads like frisbees. As Lucy bent down to retrieve her backpack, she felt a jab and then saw the blood. An iPad had accidentally been launched from Owen’s* hand, hitting her forehead and cutting through three layers of skin. Almost all the way to her skull.
Have you been surprised by trauma before?
Has your heart been pierced all the way to the core? Deeper than you thought possible?
Lucy found herself in the nurse’s office, full of panic and spilling with tears. She answered some questions and waited for her mom to arrive while her wound hid behind a temporary bandage and ice pack.
Are you doing that, too?
Are you trying to heal your wound with a temporary cure? Trying to numb that pain?
Together, Lucy and her mom raced to the Emergency Room only to wait. Sorting through the internal questions… navigating the tension… wrestling with the “why” — they sat for two hours before being invited into healing. She was terrified, for she knew stitches would be the cure.
Lucy, a seamstress, was no novice to needles. She knew their strength, knew the beauty they could create by piecing something together. She had seen needles penetrate cloth with permanency. And this is what terrified her. She knew the puncture was necessary to create, and in her case, necessary to restore. Pain before wholeness.
“The doctor told me he would have to sew through my skin, layer by layer, and that I’d have a permanent scar on my forehead,” Lucy recalls. “I went home after the stitching and cried and cried. You know how physical beauty is so important in this society? I was so angry.”
You, too? Do you feel like your wounds have tainted your beauty?
Lucy went back to school the next day which proved to be a mistake. Rumors had already been spread that simply weren’t true: Owen had flung his iPad toward Lucy on purpose…she was suffering from a major concussion…her entire face had been cut open…she was being over-dramatic and nothing serious had happened.
Have people tried to sort through your story?
Have they resorted to lies when they couldn’t quite make sense of your struggle?
Lucy wasn’t prepared for all the questions, either. She wasn’t equipped to give explanations or interpret her feelings for everyone publicly. My goodness, she hadn’t even completely faced her reality in solitude yet. Some would ask to see her wound, ripping away any sense of normalcy for the self-conscious girl.
Despite all the attention, she felt so… alone. “People didn’t make eye contact,” Lucy remembers. “They’d either look away from me or just stare. There was no middle ground.”
To help themselves navigate the awkwardness, some would turn to jokes. They weren’t cruel, but they tried to make light of something very, very real. Lucy faked a lot of laughs to go along. “It was very uncomfortable,” she admits.
But the seamstress is also an artist. And she turned to paper and water and color for therapy.
In something as delicate as a flower, Lucy began to find strength. She discovered her voice and fell into gratitude. “So thankful for how I’ve grown closer to God through this. It could have been a lot worse, and I am eternally grateful to him.”
And as she began to accept her situation, she knew forgiveness and reconciliation were the next steps. Owen had pursued her immediately. He visited her that first day in the school nurse’s office, overflowing with apologies. His friend had come along, too. Trying to comfort her, he shared his own story of receiving stitches once and assured her she would survive.
“He calmed me down and brought me back to reality that day,” Lucy recalls. Freshmen in high school… empathizing… owning a mistake… asking for forgiveness.
While she was engaged in ongoing conversations with Owen and the school counselor, Lucy’s peers were trying to support her. But remember her initial anger? Well, these kids loved their friend and were furious, too. Some publicly declared their rage toward Owen. They wrote hate notes to him and left them in Lucy’s locker, hoping to make her feel better.
“I had made peace with Owen, though,” testifies Lucy. “We weren’t enemies when the accident happened. I had moved on from the wound, but my friends hadn’t moved on. They had good intentions, but their hate notes weren’t supporting me.”
Have you found yourself wanting to heal but needing to comfort your loved ones instead?
Have empathizing friends who meant well kept you from forgiving?
The counselor urged Lucy find her voice again and publicly urge her friends to get over her situation. She wanted to thank everyone for their support but remind them they could lift her up without tearing down Owen. She turned to the canvas again.
“We all make mistakes.”
“We all need grace, forgiveness, and a chance to start over.”
“Letting go of past hurt changes you.”
And it worked. People stopped sending hate notes, and she continued to forgive Owen. Her story impacted so many, and she recalls the certainty of knowing that many beyond herself were wrestling with God and engaging with Him because of her story. She drank from the cup of closure and was satisfied.
Friends, she’s only fourteen.
On that day in fourth hour, and in the weeks to come, Lucy’s people were reminded how faith and everyday reality do indeed intersect. How quickly we forget. Through the strength of the Healer and Master Artist, Lucy found the courage to forgive, and even reconcile. And an entire community was marked by her courage.
“If you’re reluctant to forgive,” challenges Lucy, “you have to really think about that person… and your relationship with that person. If you’re thinking about retaliating or choosing the “safety” of ignoring, ask yourself, ‘How could God get glory if I took a peaceful resolution?’ ”
So, my friends, what about your wounds?
Is God calling you to more than just surviving?
Is He calling you to restoration?
“He binds their wounds,
heals the sorrows of their hearts.” Psalm 147:3
*Some names have been changed
photo source | SugarBean Photography
I’m not sure what I was thinking.
I love writing and have for quite some time. I should have revealed it’s therapeutic qualities to my daughter months ago.
My daughter, the writer. She’s organically etched her words in dozens of journals stuffed into drawers and under her bed. She has a lot to say. She listens to her Rescuer, and she’s not afraid to speak back.
It’s an interesting season, for she’s stepped onto that roller coaster called “almost middle school”. Bless her. Like anything in this unraveling world, I’d bear her angst if I could. But my job is to lead her, equip her, in daily finding her own story.
Yes, life is hard, even as a kid, when your mind and heart boast maturity one day but are bound by a child’s perspective the next. It’s hard, too, to hold your confusion as you’re riding that roller coaster without it spilling onto the person next to you.
Have you caught someone’s wrath before? Have you spilled your pain onto another?
“Here, my dear. Here’s a notebook. Write out your hurts and let your journal catch your anger. Take a breath, and then we’ll talk.”
“Will you read it, Mom?” she risks.
“No. But I will if you want me to.”
She assures me she won’t. The job of Savior is already taken, I remind myself.
So the first day in our new routine, she came into my office after school and grabbed her journal. She clenched her jaw and focused her gaze and wrote and wrote and wrote in silence. She wrote until we packed up to leave. Homework would have to wait that day.
The pen she grabbed from the depths of her backpack was a beautiful gem of an instrument.
“You know,” I said, “I love that you chose that pen to write out your frustrations. It’s so beautiful. It’s sort of a reminder God will redeem all the ugly stories of your life someday. Don’t you think?”
She nodded slowly. “I like it… because I’m writing in… pen.”
She narrowed her eyes and stared off into her heart, nodding ever so slightly, until she brought her gaze to mine.
She nodded again in silence with a question on her face as if to discern if I got her message.
I got it.
“Yeah, pen,” I whispered. For a moment, we traded roles again. I was the student, and she was wise beyond her years. She was the one moving me forward. You see, I will choose to journal in pencil every time. Pencil is safe and subtle and unthreatening. It’s changeable when you’ve risked too much. If you’ve been a bit too honest, well, you can erase your boldness and try again another day.
Not with pen. My daughter’s words were out there. They were raw and brave, and no one could erase her honesty. And she was okay with it. My goodness, she was okay with it.
Maybe we don’t like our truth, but it’s ours. And it’s real. And how can miracles happen without having something to restore?
The pen, it’s a starting place. It’s a bold, bold stroke onto a page of hope. There’s no denying what’s on your heart.
“There can’t be growth without pain,” a Brazilian mom told me one day. They were here for just a few months, and her five year-old cried every morning when she dropped him off at school. Confusing language, different routines, new school culture. My comfort place was her son’s fear. His growth.
Pedro’s mom would have chosen pen.
When we dig deep and harvest courage, the fragments boast honesty and the exposed heart whispers, “I’m real”. And there’s something welcoming about a person who’s truly lived, isn’t there?
Yes, where is redemption without something to redeem? Where is healing without the wounds? Where is wholeness without the shards?
Will you lean into your truth in Twenty Fifteen? You know, that truth that’s spilling over from last year? Can you grab the pen instead of choosing to be safe? And together on December 31, 2015, maybe we’ll ponder the healing and freedom this year has brought us.
I really can’t wait.
* Dedicated to my daughter’s teacher, Miss Hauser, for suggesting the journal.