Romans 12:15: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Scars are indicative of damage. Some scars are minor, and others are pronounced and will never go away. As I write this, I am sporting some really interesting bruises that upon close observation could be construed as abusive. Are they? No, they are not. They are a result of an activity that I chose to participate in and worked hard to accomplish. The bruises are ugly and quite honestly, they hurt, but I am aware that they will fade pretty quickly. Currently however, I am keenly aware of them and remember with clarity the activities that produced them. So, we could say they serve as a reminder of an event or multiple obstacles in this case. Once they fade, I will remember the event, but the pain associated with the events will fade into obscurity. This same response is why many women have more than one child, they forget the pain (right ladies?).
What happens however when the scarring is much more severe? I have a story here as well. Several years ago, my youngest son was injured in a pool accident. His skull was fractured, and he was taken to the hospital where he remained for several days. One of those days was spent in the intensive care unit as he had lost sensation on one side of his body. The good news is that he recovered and has full use of his body. He does however have a large scar on the back of his head where he struck the pool and it required stitches to close the wound. The scar is pronounced and visible because his hair is cut short. If he grows his hair longer, the scar will be covered but it will still be there. So, what makes this scar different? The sensitivity! For some reason even touching the scar is incredibly painful to him. That may fade further but it is still an issue currently. Not too long ago, his brother hit him with a marshmallow (yes, a marshmallow, we throw them in my house, don’t judge!). The reaction was immediate pain. He put his hands protectively over the scar and yelled in response.So, what is my point? I was recently confronted by someone from my church past who decided that I needed to stop playing the victim and just get over my pain. I had not heard from this person in five years, not since the day I walked out of the building for the last time. I thought we were friends, I held him no ill will, yet we are no longer in touch, until now. His comment brought back all the pain and emotion. I felt the rejection all over again. My heart constricted and the events that led to that occurrence seemed suddenly altogether too much again. I have a scar, one that will apparently last quite a while. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit around day by day and revisit those emotions and events. Most days they don’t even come to mind anymore, but every now and then a marshmallow hits me. I am once again confronted with something that caused significant pain in my life and I react defensively, trying to protect myself and my emotions all over again. I hope that fades as well. Right after this event, in the course of conversation with my husband, I uttered the words “time heals all wounds”, to which my husband reminded me of the marshmallow and the scar. Apparently, healing is different for all of us, just like grief and deconstruction.
As we come across those people who are grieving either a death, a marriage, close relationships, or even grieving their traditional understandings of God, let’s keep in mind that our experiences in no way have a bearing on the length and severity of their experience. We cannot project onto them our way of handling things. Instead we should rejoice with them when they rejoice and mourn with them while the mourn. Love holds one another up, it does not throw marshmallows or bricks (whatever the case may be).
Michelle Collins is an ordained pastor, doctoral student, pod caster, and gym enthusiast who walked away from organized religion when the needs of the building became more important than the needs of people. She resides in Southern California with her husband and is currently working on her first book.