Exposing wounds can be a good thing. Rather, exposing wounds is a good thing.
Growing up I lived in a house that was heated by a wood furnace, stoking it each night to get through the long winter nights of Minnesota. Instead of fancy regulators, the vents had a simple spike like handle that we could move up and down to open or close the vent.
When I was about 10 I was standing leaning against the wall, over the vent getting a little heat. But I slipped against the wall, and my arm caught on the vent handle. Yep, it sliced open a gash on my arm, just below the elbow. The cut was deep and about 2-3 inches long.
Interestingly it didn’t hurt. But it was a little unnerving to see my muscle start to slip out of my arm. We lived in the country (no quick trip to town) and there was no such thing as 911 calls. Intead my mother gently took my arm and began stuffing the muscle (and everything else around it) back into my arm. She then covered the wound with a long piece of gauze and taped it into place.
Her handiwork did the job. No infection, no fuss. But she exposed the wound regularly to help it heal. Now 54 years later, the scar is still there, but it has never caused a problem. High school wrestling, Navy flight school, nothing. Exposing the wound helped heal the wound.
But what if?
What if the wound isn’t so easily identified? What if instead of a physical wound, it is an emotional, mental, or spiritual wound?
Experiences and words carry great impact, positively and negatively. Words— harsh, demanding, unforgiving, attacking, words can stay with a person for days, weeks, years, decades. Words may have been spoken in anger then quickly forgotten. But the receiving end of that anger does not quickly fade.
I am realizing how significant some of the things I heard still stay with me. In one sense, the words are wounding all over again. As I hear someone speak angry words today, I find myself reeling. Am I hearing and responding to these fresh words? Or am I responding to words spoken 20, 30, 50, 60 years ago? Words that bring back emotional and spiritual wounds that I had thought were behind me.
Now, I am changing the role of the words, so that “exposing” is the noun, and “wounds” becomes the verb.
That is, as I remember words I heard and now hear fresh, what about the words I have said in other relationships? Now if I respond in defense of a wound 40 years ago, am I in the process then wounding this person in the present? And am I wounding myself all over again? Then I beat myself up for the wounding I am doing. Is there any way out of this?
At times it seems that the healing of the wounds has been effective. I can move on. But then, some angry words, retaliation by someone, deceit, manipulation … the wound is exposed, and needs healing.
Healing the wound
In Luke 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus reveals himself as indeed the Good Samaritan, the outsider who acts perfectly as the neighbor. He fulfills all that the Samaritan has done—and more. We read,
But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10:33-34)
The word “compassion” (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη) is used only in reference to Jesus or God. Here the compassion of the Samaritan moves him to come, and “bandage up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.” That is what I need! Bandaging up the wounds of my heart. Bandaging that will not leak out in infection and spread to others, but bandaging that will heal. Notice, too, that the Samaritan continued his healing work, “he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.”
Exposing the wounds happens unexpectedly—for me. And then I need the true healing, that only Jesus can give. And I need it often. Yes, the words of Scripture, the body and blood of Jesus in the Sacrament, and the words of a Christian friend who speaks God’s truth, especially the forgiving, restoring word of Jesus. Not to expose the wound, that’s already been done. But to bring healing of the wound.
The deeper the wound, the deeper the healing. Only Jesus can do that. He has. And he does.