Talking about wounds is a heavy way to end the school year. We're wrapping up the subject and lightening it up for the last few days, but that's the territory I've been exploring with my students over the last few weeks.
When we started these explorations, I thought my own wounds were familiar and comfortable territory for myself. I thought I could poke at them and not feel any tenderness, that I was fully healed from past hurts. After all, in November, in my Fragments and Gold post, I wrote about my wholeness. I thought each wound, crack, area of brokenness had been sufficiently healed, sealed, and swathed with enough love from friends and family to keep me in one piece for a good, long while.
Turns out I was wrong.
Let me be quick to say this is by no fault of my loved ones. They continue to slather me with healing salve, with love, the gold sealant that keeps me together. Perhaps the origin of the November post was self-delusion or, more likely, the wholeness I felt was, briefly, real.
However, at least in my life, that sense of wholeness doesn't last very long. I try, to varying degrees, to engage in the world in some meaningful way. Because of this the cracks continue to form; sometimes new cracks appear, other times it's the same old wounds opening back up. Sometimes new pieces fall away that may be quick or not-so-quick in their recovery.
Yesterday, I started the class discussion asking about scars- the physical ones. I teach boys, so physical scars are a mark of pride for many of them. Almost every student shared a story about one scar or another: one student branded himself with an "X" sophomore year ("What'd your parents think of that?" I asked. "They weren't too pleased," he replied); another took a flip over a bike; several had encounters with baseball bats or golf clubs; there were stories of broken bones, surgeries, and long patches of scraped-off skin. The students shared their stories with excitement and everyone in the room seemed comfortable with the conversation.
Then I asked, "What about the internal scars?"
The room got quiet. We don't share our stories about internal scars with the same ease that we do about the physical ones. The internal scars do not carry the same mark of pride.
Sharing those scars is downright scary.
I wrote three words on the board:
I believe these words are closely related. We are all scarred and our scarred nature may lead us to be scared. We waft between the fear of being alone and the fear of the pain that comes from allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. These two fears are intimately related, two sides of the same coin.
If we choose the first fear, we may hurl ourselves at anyone, just so we don't have to face the being we find when we are all by ourselves. "Anyone" may or may not be so good for us. They may take advantage of our rawness.
If we choose the second, we may hide our old wounds and deny their existence. "I'm fine" may become our mantra. Meanwhile the wounds fester and erupt in new and grotesque ways later. To avoid new pain (ha!), we build up fortresses to protect ourselves.
But there is some middle ground, some place that is not fear. There we show our wounds, but not recklessly; we allow others to care for us, and acknowledge that healing is not a solo process. We choose vulnerability.
In any of the scenarios, it's likely that we'll be hurt again. It's just a matter of who we allow to hurt us.
Do we do it to ourselves or do we allow someone else to do it? Do we choose to remain scared or do we allow for the possibility of the sacred?
When we try to build fortresses around ourselves, when we try to close ourselves off from any chance of pain, we also close ourselves from the possibility of the sacred entering our being. When we allow the walls to come down, we open ourselves up. To pain, yes. But also to healing. To sacredness. To holiness. To wholeness.
I had a long overdue conversation with my best friend a few days ago. She is "my person" and my reality, particularly the deep down reality, doesn't feel real until I've talked to her about it. For whatever reason, I had recently built up a few walls between us.
They came down when we talked. I didn't know the weight of the walls until I knocked them down.
As I read and write this, I realize that my thoughts are not as well-formed as I thought they were before writing. Please pardon me for my lack of knowledge, wisdom, or experience. I welcome whatever you may have to add to mine.