“There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again once they are broken. Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman. Such was the fate of Chiaroscuro. His heart was broken. Picking up the spoon and placing it on his head, speaking of revenge, these things helped him to put his heart together again. But it was, alas, put together wrong.” (Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux)
On Friday I wrote that one of my top priorities for this next season is to focus on emotional, spiritual and intellectual healing. The question I’d like to ask today is why? Why is this aspect of recovery so important. I’m answering that question for myself as much as for anyone else who still needs to grieve a significant loss.
Because the truth is, sometimes I think I’d rather forget the past and just move on. My body is finally healing! Why not leave the agony and desperation of my illness in the past? Why not just focus on creating a happy future? Why not strive to forget what happened? Why not distance myself as much as possible from that girl screaming in her bed and writhing in pain?
Well… first off, that girl is me and screaming and writhing in pain is part of my story. I can pretend it never happened but that doesn’t change the reality. Those things really did happen. To me. Whether I like it or not, my illness is a huge part of my story and it has played a very significant role in making me the person I am today. I’m not the same woman I was before the illness and if I want to truly understand who I am I need to process the difficult events that led me here.
Some might not think it’s that important to understand who you are so long as you can be happy or love God or whatever you happen to think is the highest good. I beg to differ.
I believe knowing who you are and understanding your story enables you to engage in relationships more deeply and effectively. It enables you to find your place in the world and your role in history. To put it in Christian terms, understanding your story and the way it has shaped you, enables you to recognize the good works that God has uniquely prepared for you to do. It helps you to live a more fruitful life.
They say time heals all wounds and I think that is probably true. I suspect that even if I never went back to intentionally process my story my heart would stop hurting after a while. It would probably heal crooked like Chiaroscuro’s heart but I would move on and likely live a happy life. However, happiness and relief from pain isn’t what I need most. I need wholeness, and it matters to me more than almost anything that my heart heals straight, not crooked.
I want to experience true healing of the soul so that I can move through the world with courage and strength that suffering can’t take away. Because the ugly truth is, the world is still just as dangerous a place as it was in 2012 when I fell ill. My story is moving towards a happy ending but bad things are still happening every day. Someone else is still screaming in a diseased body. If the only way I can make peace with that is by pretending that it isn’t true, what have I gained from my experiences? Nothing, not even wisdom.
I could shove aside the questions that suffering burned into my mind but what good is that to me or anyone else? I already know that my previous understanding of God and the world was too small for reality. To move really forward, I’m going to need to face the sorrow, wrestle with the questions and come to a deeper understanding of God and the way the universe works.
Because in the end, I want the truth however unpleasant it may be. I don’t want to construct an artificial peace that will fall apart as soon as anything of substance touches it. I want to make peace with reality as it actually is. No doubt it’s a harder path than moving on but I’m convinced it’s also a better path. A path I believe will lead to a more meaningful, fruitful, and joyful life.
By the way, Brett and I made a beautiful PDF of my favorite resources for suffering souls. I created the content and he made it look fancy with his superduper graphic design skills. It’s available for free to my email subscribers. Click here to sign up and receive 5 Resources for the Suffering Soul.