I heard a screech the other night and opened the door as our cat rushed in with her fur all standing up. Things have been difficult for Lainey lately. We got her from the “pound” some years ago when she was about a year old. She’s always been extra skittish and we’ve assumed her first year of life was traumatic. Recently we moved her to a new house and a new neighborhood and the trauma has reappeared. One cat in particular has been coming into the yard to tangle with her and I could tell after a few minutes that she wasn’t just scared, she was hurt.
A trip to the vet revealed several puncture wounds and a gash in her belly and, for the past couple of days, she’s been sleeping off the sedatives and moving very slowly. Cats are usually so nimble and agile but right now Lainey is forced to think about the slightest movement. She stands in one place considering the pain that will be involved with sitting or lying down. It’s like she’s already thinking about how hard it will be to stand back up. The furniture just above her eye level seems inviting but it might as well be ten feet in the air so she just eases down to the floor and closes her eyes.
One thing I have realized over the years is that we’re all carrying a number of wounds. Some of those wounds are very fresh while others are historic in nature, things we survived years ago but things that still grab us from time to time. The fresher wounds nearly paralyze us. They hurt so bad that we just stand around in a daze. We don’t know whether to sit or lie down or just what to do. We look around and see things we probably should take care of but it hurts so much that we just close our eyes. Life is full of fresh wounds. Most of them are pretty temporary. The pain will diminish and we’ll get back to our normal routine. There will be more later on but, for the most part, we’re pretty good about absorbing those physical wounds, painful though they are.
The historic wounds are harder to recover from and all of us have those too. We all had parents who did their best when we were born and growing up. But no parent does a perfect job. No parent provides everything that a child needs. We all grow up with some gaps inside, some places that didn’t get tended to well enough as we were forming our self-image. Parents themselves carry their own historic wounds and aren’t perfectly whole themselves so it stands to reason that they would inflict some harm on their children. Usually they do that unintentionally.
Every child has to do the work of forgiving his parents. We might call that maturing. It’s important work and it usually takes at least until mid-life to accomplish. Sometimes we aren’t able to do it while our parents are still alive and come to it much later. We grow up with some gaps inside, we come to grips with what our parents did or didn’t do, and we move on. We do that while the world keeps traumatizing us with fresher wounds. As Scott Peck wrote in the first line of The Road Less Traveled “life is difficult.”
Historic wounds never really heal until we put our parents and the world in their proper places of perspective. One reason historic wounds keep hurting and get worse is that we keep expecting the ones who have hurt us to make us feel better. That’s kind of like getting beaten up by a feral cat and then hoping he’ll clean out the wound and give us antibiotics. Healing has to come from somewhere else.
“Friendship with the world is enmity with God” Paul writes. If we keep hoping the temporal will provide us the eternal, we’re in for continued trauma. We have to accept the world for what it is and put our hope in the God who is able to heal us and save us. The world cannot save us. Jesus Christ can and does.
This next Sunday we’ll read about the Lost Sheep, a parable that really makes no sense in worldly terms. A shepherd leaves a flock of 99 to search out one that is lost. That’s not good business. The shepherd, by all accounts, should cut his losses and give up on the one lost sheep. But God operates differently. God pursues and pursues until healing and salvation are experienced. We don’t search so much for the magic cure to all our problems as the saving grace of God searches us out and finds us.
Watching people heal, and cats too for that matter, reveals an extraordinary power that comes in from the outside. People don’t so much pull themselves up by their own bootstraps as they recover from trauma over time and find a new sense of hope. We learn that pain passes. We learn to be a little wary of the feral cats in the world. We learn that something beyond us has sought us out and brought us relief and strength. We are transformed from the inside out.
We recover from wounds with something we didn’t have before those wounds were inflicted. We develop compassion for others. We develop a sense of trust. We learn to put ourselves in places that will be better for us. We learn to accept the world for what it is and lean on God for what is most important.
Whatever wounds you have, fresh or historic, the healing grace of God is searching for you to heal them and make you whole. Accept the grace of Christ as it is extended to you.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.