It’s been said that time heals all wounds. While that may be true, some of us still bear the scars from those wounds and each time we look at them, we’re reminded of the injury we sustained.
I know this from personal experience as two prominent scars are visible on my abdomen – a three-inch horizontal one marking surgery to remove an organ gone haywire and a longer, uglier vertical scar reminding me of the vile C-word and the fear it invoked into my spirit until I let God’s peace envelop me.
Some of us bear physical scars to remind us of the times our bodies were damaged; others bear emotional scars from the very real pain inflicted upon us which mutilated our spirits.
It seems to me that our bodies heal much faster than our spirits. My son suffered a broken bone in his wrist during his high school senior soccer season. He sported a large cast which covered his arm past his elbow and half way to his shoulder just so that tiny bone would heal correctly. After a few weeks, he was as good as new and there was no visible reminder of his injury.
A fractured bone can usually be repaired, although sometimes other measures need to be taken. I once had a severely fractured tooth which caused me a bit of pain. It wasn’t a throbbing unbearable pain yet it continued to bother me. You might call it a nagging pain. Sometimes it hurt, sometimes it didn’t. My dentist determined it could not be repaired adequately so he suggested extraction. Since it was a wisdom tooth, I really wouldn’t miss it once it was removed and I would be free from the source of irritation.
Problem solved. But how do you go about repairing or removing the pain from a fractured spirit?
A couple of years ago, Papa and I bit the bullet and purchased a much-needed new vehicle. After only a month of driving our brand-new car, something distressing happened. On a day trip to the state next door, we were shocked to see it unfold in front of our eyes. Well, actually right on our vehicle’s windshield. A fracture. No stone or other object had been violently flung in our direction. A crack in the glass just suddenly appeared out of nowhere. And it grew and spread as it snaked its way across the glass.
Our new car with a broken windshield. Not pleasant but fixable. We called our insurance company who sent out a repairman straight to our driveway and soon we had a new windshield. No sign of the fracture.
Not all of our material goods can be repaired as easily. I’ve dumped more broken glasses, cups, and dishes into the garbage than I care to admit. Sometimes what’s broken stays broken. A fracture remains a fracture.
I’m reminded of a quote which I squirreled away in my trusty notebook. Margaret Mitchell, American author, wrote this line for character Rhett Butler in her novel Gone With the Wind: “I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken — and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as I lived.”
That quote caused me to consider something I’ve been struggling with in my own life. A kind of brokenness. I’m hesitant to share about it but I do so in hopes that it will give encouragement to any reader who may feel the same way. My hope is writing about it and what I’ve learned in the process will enable me to remember what was broken at its best rather than the shattered pieces that remain.
Let me explain. Several months ago, I suffered something that broke me. Not physically although it manifested its toll on my body in various, physical ways. Instead I smarted with emotional abrasions and lacerations, hurting me just as surely as a physical gash, from a group of people who I had considered friends.
That profound hurt shook me, rattled me, and yes, even broke me. One of my dearest friends worded it best when she suggested that I was suffering from a fractured spirit.
Was it the worst thing to ever happen to me? Absolutely not. So I told myself to just deal with it, get over it, leave it behind, and move on. I wish I could say that I took a quote attributed to Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to heart: “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” But I didn’t. And it didn’t.
Instead, it was as if the scab covering the injury kept getting knocked off, re-opening the wound and reminding me how very hurt I was. The offense even began to haunt my dreams and I would awaken with emotional pain bubbling up and over like blood gushing from a deep cut. I continued to carry this brokenness around with me. Just last night again my dreams revealed how much this pain has fractured me and continues to throb like a toothache.
An unknown person once said, “Moving on is simple, it’s what you leave behind that makes it difficult.” How true that is. What I was forced to leave behind in order to try to recuperate from this distress was a huge part of myself and what helped define me as a person with purpose. I even had to leave some relationships behind. That’s the difficult aspect of it all – trying to fill the void left in my life. By this fracture.
How do you heal a fractured spirit? You don’t. Not by yourself. No amount of time or attempt to move on will smooth over the rupture and make it as good as new. No ranting or railing or tears of sorrow and frustration will right it and cover it with a mending cast. Even forgiveness does not totally erase the pain inflicted because while we can and should certainly choose to forgive another’s offense, in our humanness, it’s hard to forget.
No, there’s only one way to make a fractured spirit whole again. You call in the Repairman. You make repeated trips to the Great Physician. You pray. You confess any sinful part you had in the cause of the distress and you ask forgiveness. You allow the healing balm of His Holy Word to sink into your spirit.
Words like: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” found in Psalm 34:18 and “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” in Psalm 147:3.
Being fractured in spirit happens to us all. It’s a mistake to think that just because you’re a believer in Christ you won’t suffer in this life. Even if the anguish comes from the hand of a friend, a fellow believer, or family member, the wound will harm and do damage. But it damages you even further if you continue to carry it around. Then it may even fracture your spirit.
I know that turning to the One who’s always there, who always hears my prayers, and who can heal the broken-hearted, crushed spirit is the only prescription that will work for me. But here’s the thing. I have to choose to do that.
The Lord hasn’t made my fracture disappear (although He could if He wanted to). Instead I believe He wants me to humbly come to Him and lay my broken burden at His feet and leave it there. Only then can He can transform my wounded heart and infuse me with joy.
“Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” ~ John 16:20
My friend – the one who recognized my fractured spirit – recently told me that as she prayed for me and my damaged heart one day, God spoke a word into her heart for me. What was that word? Exuberance.
Oh my. At that time, I was feeling anything BUT exuberant. Exuberance? In the midst of such deep emotional pain? Exuberance? When I battled daily with feelings of hurt, anger, and injustice? Exuberance? When I have no clue what I am supposed to do next to fill the void left by this fracture?
I realize this is just one more step in knitting my fractured spirit into wholeness again. And even though I’m not feeling it, for this day – today – I will choose this word exuberance. I will choose joy. I will choose enthusiasm. I will choose cheerfulness. I will choose liveliness and energy and every other synonym for exuberance. I choose to embrace that word.
And tomorrow I will make that choice again. And again. And again. If you’re spirit feels fractured, you too have a choice. What will you choose?