He heals those who have broken hearts. He takes care of their wounds (Psalm 147:3 NIRV).
Have you ever noticed how medical professionals can talk about things that make others cringe and change the subject? As a registered nurse, although I haven’t worked in a medical setting for years, I still catch myself bringing up a topic at the dinner table occasionally that is met with cries of, “Mom, we’re eating!”
But sometimes conversations about hard, messy, even disgusting topics can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. I invite you to put down your fork, so we can dig into the important topic of wound care.
If we live long enough, we are certain to suffer a variety of wounds to our bodies, minds and spirits. While working for 10 years on a hospital unit for patients who were ventilator dependent and had limited mobility, I helped to treat physical wounds that were among the most difficult to heal.
A pressure ulcer, or bed sore, starts as a discolored spot on the skin. It may not seem like a big deal until you consider that if the source of pressure is not relieved and the site nurtured, within hours it can move on to more serious stages of injury.
I recall caring for several patients with pressure ulcers that had become deep, complex wounds. These patients were extremely vulnerable due to lack of mobility, underlying disease processes or injury. By the time these wounds were thoroughly examined, they had progressed to a point where injury from outside the body was no longer the primary threat, but processes within the wounds themselves were causing further destruction. Inflammation and infection inside the wounds had caused them to tunnel deep into tissues and sometimes even bone, with devastating effects.
Wounds to the mind and spirit can be devastating in similar ways. Historical, generational, interpersonal and personal trauma have plagued humanity since sin entered the world. Recent advances in epigenetics, the study of how behaviors and environment impact how your genes work, reveal new depth of insight to what the Bible has spoken to us for thousands of years: that the impact of trauma is passed down from previous generations, even on a cellular level through changes in DNA expression.
Trauma inflicted directly by others and self, along with toxic stress, can add further complexity to our wounds. When vulnerability is combined with lack of prevention, early intervention and ongoing care, these wounds can unleash their own destructive processes that impact not only the mind and spirit, but the body as well.
When we experience a deep and complex wound in our own lives, we often struggle with a fierce tendency to guard the vulnerable wound site. It takes deep courage to remove the physical or metaphorical bandages we’ve carefully placed for protection. We know that once we do, it will be uncomfortable to have the site exposed, messy to look at, painful to probe and potentially distressing to discover the true depth and complexity of the wound.
Some good news? Many complex physical wounds will heal through a holistic process. Often these wounds become stuck in the first stages of healing. Debridement (from a French word, meaning to unbridle) may be necessary to remove infection, dead tissue and foreign material that is inhibiting wound healing.
Rest, good nutrition and expert wound care measures complement the body’s natural healing processes. In time, beautiful new pink granulation tissue can fill the deep tunnels that the wound created.
The same is true for complex wounds of the mind and spirit. The world offers many treatment options for these types of wounds, but you don’t have to look far to realize that even many well-intentioned efforts are not working well. When emotions like fear, anxiety and anger go unchecked, we become so involved in defending wounds from real and perceived outside threats that we miss the destructive processes that are at work deep within the wound. When we can’t see or refuse to acknowledge the depth and complexity of our wounds, this distorted reality becomes the basis for further harm. When misplaced guilt and shame compel us, the resulting solutions often hurt more than help. When selfishness and greed enter the picture, wound care in name may be a disguise for a new threat.
The Church has a responsibility to demonstrate a different kind of wound care. This wound care combines current science, research and best practices with biblical wisdom. It acknowledges our responsibility to prioritize prevention and protect the vulnerable. It understands that dysfunctional behavior and relationships are often symptoms of a hidden wound process and is willing to probe deeper. It recognizes that a prayerful, ongoing process of assessment and discernment is necessary to determine steps toward complex wound healing.
Biblical wound care prepares for and courageously enters the spiritual battle that will accompany the processes of healing and resilience-building. It focuses on empathy and connection first but is careful not to enable the deception and misguided thoughts and actions that some wounds create. It balances harmful responses to self or others with truth and unconditional love. It realizes that the path to complex wound healing requires radical and counterintuitive measures, hard work, patience and perseverance. It exchanges a victim identity for a victorious identity, the hope and realization of an abundant life in Christ.
- Are threats to healing coming from outside the wound, from deep inside, or both?
- Is there anything preventing the true state of the wound from being fully revealed?
- Are emotional responses like fear, anger, anxiety, blame and self-righteousness inhibiting wound healing?
- Are we allowing guilt and shame to guide our wound care efforts, or leaving them at the foot of the cross of Christ where they belong?
- Are we refusing to pursue wound care until outside threats are eliminated or trusting God to heal our wounds from the inside out, no matter what happens around us?
FREE training for Wesleyan leaders: Trauma-informed care is an important part of holistic discipleship, offering insights into more effective connection with children and adults struggling with the impact of childhood trauma. Hephzibah62:4 is pleased to offer a limited number of complimentary 30-minute Trauma Free World courses to Wesleyan churches. Request your FREE training.
Jodi Lewis, RN, BSN, serves as the director of Hephzibah62:4, a subsidiary of The Wesleyan Church committed to equipping and mobilizing local Wesleyan churches to transform the lives of vulnerable children.