We always hear, “Time heals all wounds.” What if it doesn’t? What if time doesn’t bring your grandmother back? What if time doesn’t take away the pain you feel when you remember a tragedy you faced? What if time really doesn’t heal at all, only covers it up, like putting a rug over a stain and calling it “healed.”
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a Friday night party with fellow Christian workers. I worked late that night on a crafty project, which to me really isn’t work. Once I finally got to the party, the Jack Daniels and Coke and the Sake had already been taken out and poured. I probably seemed somber, and I bet everyone thought it was because I was tired from all the stress at work. You can read about that on our family blog. But what the crew didn’t know is that I was uncomfortable. I was questioning how these God-fearing people could be drinking liquor. I understand beer and wine, but why hard liquor? And then the uncomfortable feeling became sadness and pain. It was like my heart was an orange being squeezed into juice. I found myself asking why I felt such grief and pain by my friends’ choices?
Was it some form of pride? Perhaps. I did find myself thinking and feeling like they had been removed from a pedestal, as if I was somehow better than them because I chose to abstain from alcohol. Was the pain just me looking my pride in the face and finding it to be as ugly as a rose dying in a vase with mold wrapped around its stem? That may have been part of it, but that wasn’t all of it. Then it hit me like a 100 million volts of electricity, a lightning bolt of emotion. This restricted feeling on my heart was the exact same pain I felt six and a half years ago.
On March 12, 2011, I was on my way back to college from a leadership training in New Mexico. We had stopped the van to eat lunch at a church fellowship hall. I remember looking at my phone and seeing that I missed a call from my mom. Thinking nothing of it, I called her back. And as she spoke the words, “Your brother has been in an accident.” I hit the grass like a comet plummeting to earth. I felt the squeezing on my heart, as all the joy and hope drained from it, like juice from an orange. She explained how my 20-year-old brother had driven drunk, and he rolled his car in every direction. She was on the way to the hospital to be with him. He was in critical condition. As the story unfolds, we find that by all logic, we should have lost my brother that day. My comfort became knowing God spared his life when alcohol tried to take it. My prayer became a plea to let this wake my brother up to the eternal fate of his own soul. And I moved on, a little broken, yet grateful. Time heals all wounds.
I had no idea that the wound was so deep from my brother’s accident. I had no idea how much it had affected my view of alcohol. I had debated and discussed with people about the topic. My head knew that it was theologically permissible, though potentially dangerous. I knew it wasn’t inherently bad in moderation with incredible self-control, even though I had made the choice to abstain. Yet, here I was feeling so wounded and concerned for my friends, wishing they would choose something else.
Once again, I put the rug over the wound. Nobody is supposed to see that stain. I couldn’t look at my friends for a couple of days without thinking about the stain under the rug, but by Monday, everything was good again. It became like a distant memory yet again. Then yesterday morning, I cracked open my Bible to Romans 14. Paul is addressing judgemental Christianity. He refers to the strong in faith being able to eat anything and the weak choosing to abstain from eating meat. His warning to the meat eaters was to not hold contempt toward the abstainers. His warning to the abstainers was to not judge or look down on those who ate meat. And I immediately made the connection to alcohol, knowing this was in part what I did to my friends.
On one hand, I found myself repenting for my own pride and judgements against my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not better than them for abstaining, and I know that. Yet out of the wound of my heart oozed a bit of pride and ugly judgmental thoughts.
On the other hand, I found myself praying a prayer of inner healing. As I closed my eyes and remembered the events of that horrific day, I asked God where He was in the memory. He first showed me the army of angels, linked hand in hand, engulfing the car like a sheath. He then showed me how He put his body across my brother’s body, holding him back from the life robbing damage that could have happened. Then He showed me that while I was on the ground broken and weeping, His arm was around me like a cloak of comfort. And the wound I didn’t know I had began to heal a little bit.
I don’t know if or when I will be able to withstand an environment of hard liquor without feeling the pain of my brother’s accident. For now, I am choosing to not let time heal my wound, but to let the Healer heal my wound. Don’t just cover up your pain, and hope nobody sees it. Seek the one who can treat the stain, the one who knows your pain, the one who can remove the sting. Time alone doesn’t heal all wounds, but the Lord of Time, God Almighty, heals all wounds, but that does take time.