I had a physical therapy appointment tonight for my back. I hurt it a couple years ago lifting Nathan into the car and is has been bothering me ever since. When I had my annual physical in November, I mentioned it (again) to my doctor and he sent me to PT to get it taken care of. I went for a few weeks before the holidays and it seemed to be helping. Well, life got in the way (namely, the holidays and travel) and I have only just gotten back into it.
Unfortunately, the reason I am back is because in the past 3-4 weeks my back has started to REALLY hurt me a lot. I will literally have to lie down on the floor sometimes to get the muscles in my back to stop spasming and going numb. Nothing short of not using the muscle will help (at times). So, during my appointment, my therapist asked me what brought me back and I did my best to explain how my back was worse than when I last saw him. Then he asked why I had taken so long to come back and I came up with excuses and then (finally) told him that I had been raised with a "suck it up" attitude about pain and physical weakness., so I had been trying to do just that. Unsuccessfully. So I told him I was back to actually fix the issue instead of just "dealing" with it.
I have actually been thinking a lot lately about how much all of the pain we go through physically resembles our spiritual/emotional pain as well. For example, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I tore/hurt the muscle in my back. Similarly, we all have specific instances in which we are emotionally or spiritually injured that cause us an immense amount of pain. The initial occurance is very jarring and you will remember it for a long time if the pain is intense enough.
Well, I knew my back was hurt but I thought (hoped) that it would just heal itself so I could move on with my life. I was uncomfortable for a few weeks and then it did seem to mildly recover and get a bit better (or so I thought). Spiritally, we can do the same thing. We try to recover from the wound that was given to us and just "move on" with our lives.
After the initial shock and pain of those first few weeks, I got really good at not using that muscle in my back. And if I did agitate the "wound" I would quickly stop/adjust what I was doing so I could continue to hope/think that everything was ok. I also conveniently forgot the times that I couldn't stop the pain and it would make me cry. I would forget the times I had to stop carrying Nathan around or be unable to lift/do things because it hurt too much.
Having gotten a degree in counseling, I cannot tell you the number of people I have spent time with who have done the same thing with a spiritual/emotional wound in their lives. The daughter whose father wounded her verbally about her body and now she eats to cover the pain she feels in her soul. The student whose teacher told them they were stupid and they choose not to study for the test because "what's the point?" The son who was told that they will never live up to their parents' expectations or their older brother's perfection, so they drop out of school and work at a fast food joint.
Some might call these self-fulfilling prophecies. You get what you ask for, and all that. I've also heard people complain that we have a choice of how we respond and that we don't have to listen to them or something like that. I disagree and I think saying things like that can do more damage than good. There will be the occasional person who really doesn't care what others think, but most of us do care. A lot. Especially if the wound/words come from someone who is close to us.
So, after living in "blissful" denial of the true extent of my injury, I finally decided that enough was enough and I needed to get it looked at. So, here I am...in physical therapy. And, guess what? I really think it is going to help. Now, I also think that there are going to be some days when it is going to hurt pretty bad still, even during the therapy. For instance, at the end of my session, my thereapist told me that I will be sore from what we did tonight. Now, normally I would get a little upset about feeling "worse" after getting help, but not tonight. I know that what he is helping me do is to heal my injured muscle and strengthen my back to help prevent further injuries. Great! Bring it on.
Guess what. It is the same with God. He wants to heal us from past injuries. He wants us to come to him when we are tired of living in pain and trying to "fix" ourselves unsuccessfully. He knows that there might be times when the healing will cause more pain initially. Old wounds being reopened can be really painful. But in order for him to be able to do the truly deep healing he has to do for most of us, he needs to get into the core of the wound. To get at the root of the pain. Like when you have a splinter. What you really want to do is to leave it alone and hope it gets out on it's own. Generally, it won't. In fact, from what I understand, it can go deeper, get into your bloodstream and wreak havoc on you body. So, too can emotional/spiritual wounds.
God needs to be able to get to the very deepest part of our pain to clean it out and apply his salve of life to it. I won't lie. It can hurt, and I have experienced some seriously deep healing of my own that did hurt. However, getting to the other side of the wound and into the healing grace of our Father is nothing short of miraculous.
So, as I prepare to do my exercises and follow the advice of my physical therapist I cannot help but wonder if there is more healing that God has in store for me in the weeks/months to come (physically and spiritually). My heart tells me there is, and I stand her in nervous anticipation of what God has in store for me...and for anyone else who is willing to take the first step towards their own healing.