My drive home from church on a sunny Mother’s Day afternoon changed my life forever. Almost two years have passed since the collision with a high-speed driver caused severe, potentially life- threatening injuries. After three weeks in the hospital I was released—just a day before my son’s high school graduation. While I was thrilled to move home again, moving on was not that simple. Months of rehabilitation, more surgeries, and a painful adjustment to the reality of a body and mind that functioned differently lay ahead. I was grateful that I had survived, but wondered: Am I really healed?
Throughout my life, I have wrestled with the mysteries of healing. The accident wasn’t my first personal encounter with brokenness. Family and friends have also struggled with various afflictions such as sudden health crises, unexpected deaths, and chronic mental health disorders. Throughout my vocational role as a pastor, I have walked with others through their own experiences. I recognize that brokenness is a reality of living in a world aching toward God’s restoration of all creation. The Apostle Paul reminds me that, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
What is Healing?
Following my accident, I began looking at the healing accounts in Scripture differently. Previously, I marveled at the miraculous encounters these individuals had with Jesus. I thought about how they gained sight, became fully mobile, and emerged from death’s grip, among other outcomes. Often, they were delivered from marginalized positions in society. While I celebrate the life-altering implications of their encounters with Jesus, I wonder what life felt like to them afterwards.
How did the woman, suffering from a bleeding condition, in Mark 5 find peace and place when she returned to her community? Did she worry that her condition might return? When was she able to let go of the reminders of the social stigma and isolation of the past?
Seeing the Scars
Here in the midst of healing, numerous scars disguise my previously uncut flesh. My left arm hangs differently than my right one, and is now two inches shorter because my shoulder no longer exists. Some of my injuries are less than others. My brain—post accident—has a harder time conjuring up words and memories than before.
Beyond the physical trauma, I am well aware of the emotional wounds that exist beneath the skin. They either remain open or rip through the invisible stitches by the force of outside triggers. Ambulance sirens still beckon my attention. The sights of needles and blood cause my heart to race. There are mental health struggles, both from the physical impact of the accident, and from even processing my recovery. Healing is likely to be a long journey as I learn to apply various balms.
A New Narrative of Healing
Being honest about my healing experiences feels countercultural in a society that craves stories about overcoming adversity. It’s inspirational to see someone become liberated from a struggle. The encouragement and prayers on my behalf from my community have truly sustained me. However, the reality is that some aspects of my healing seem instantly miraculous while others have come slowly with setbacks.
Our bodies are both beautifully designed and complicated. It can be challenging to find peace with that reality. We may need to reexamine what we believe about the character of God, prayer, and suffering. Why does God heal some people differently than others? How does God’s presence show up in our suffering? There is a bigger story, deep and profound, emerging from these questions if we lean into them.
Wounds Tell a Bigger Story
Author and pastor Rich Villodas challenges us to think about what it means for us that Jesus’ wounds remained visible in his resurrected body. He asserts that, “The wounds on Jesus’ resurrected body serve as a much needed reminder that each one of us have been or will be wounded in some way. This awareness is necessary to deepen our commitment to becoming a healing presence in this world.”
Wounds speak. They transform not only bodies but worldviews. They may whisper or shout. They may show themselves temporarily or permanently. In the end, they share a story of humanity, vulnerability, and hope.
My healing is an ongoing process. It appears as a series of ordinary moments in my life rather than one big, triumphant one. My leg muscles gradually become stronger, making walking less painful. I incorporate practices that calm my anxious mind and body. I am learning to live in the tension of gratefulness and longing. Here, in the slow healing, I experience a blessing that I otherwise would have missed: Jesus’ presence in the pain.