May 31, 2016

Healing Hurts

Approximately seven weeks ago, while cleaning a school with my youngest son as part of a community service initiative, and as I returned mops outside to dry, I slipped on a surprising patch of spring ice and fractured my ankle.

A few hours later, I would discover that my right fibula was broken. I had never broken a bone before. I didn’t know how much it would hurt. I didn’t know that my leg and foot would throb so intensely that I would cry out in my sleep. I had birthed two children, endured the pain of labor and couldn’t imagine that any pain from a slip and fall could be any worse.

Thank goodness I listened to the doctor at the urgent care clinic and took the prescription for the pain medication, which finally enabled me to sleep.  Once I awakened, the first thing that came to mind was the question: how long it would be before I was better? Or said another way, how long was it going to hurt?

Isn’t that the question we all have when we are experiencing something painful and uncomfortable—the length of time we will have to endure it? How long will the healing take, I wondered. So, naturally, I took to the internet and what I learned about healing was not limited to the human body, but was also was applicable, I thought, to matters of the human spirit.

When you break a bone, the healing process begins immediately, evidenced by the inflammation that immediately follows an injury. Inflammation is the first step of the healing process, and is caused by bleeding into the area of injury and clotting of blood at site of the fracture, according to the website

I imagined that the throbbing I was feeling was, in fact, blood rushing to the area. The thing that was hurting me was also the very same thing that was healing me. The uncomfortable pain of the swelling was an indication of injury, but simultaneously, was evidence that the healing had begun.  Both of these realizations led to my second epiphany: healing hurts. A lot.

The website went on to explain that after inflammation comes bone restructuring and bone remodeling. The bone amazingly heals itself, but not without considerable effort and discomfort. The body creates new bone to repair the break. Creation and recreation is possible but painful, and amazingly the way you are supposed to facilitate this painful healing? To be still and Let. It. Hurt.

The super-sized boot the doctor prescribed served one purpose: to immobilize my foot, ankle and entire leg, really. For weeks, my ankle was kept still so that healing could happen. I couldn’t move it, twist it or turn it. Stillness is a requisite for proper healing. There was nothing I needed to do to heal my broken ankle. I couldn’t manipulate it or do anything to it to make the healing happen quicker. All I had to do was be still and wait.

As it was with my broken bone, so too, have I found it to be in the broken places in my life: when I reflect upon it, and although it may not feel like it, healing begins immediately. It starts to happen the moment we recognize that we are broken, that a relationship is broken, that a promise has been broken, that a dream has shattered. How many times have we heard that acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

But oh, does this recognition hurt. It is painful to face the truth of our mistakes, disappointments, and losses. It is difficult to embark on the difficult journey of self-reflection and analysis required for healing to occur. Healing hurts. But if we are still—answers, clarity, courage, boldness, and wholeness eventually comes. We just have to not move and wait.

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