I couldn’t stop the fall.
I couldn’t stop the blood from squirting out of her chin.
But I could think clearly enough to drive her to the nearest Urgent Care.
My daughter, a little more than three years old at the time, took a tumble on a local park play area, splitting her chin open.
The doctor attempted to stitch her gash, but she wasn’t numbed properly. The doctor tried to lip the upper skin above the wound with his curved needle, but she screamed and writhed and kicked and cried.
And I, on the other hand, couldn’t speak or move.
Three failed attempts to stitch the tear, a nurse recommended another doctor finish the work.
That night I wept. I wept hard.
I remember feeling like a failure, feeling like I had betrayed my daughter’s trust to protect her, feeling like I had those many years ago under another pair of hands who hurt me, but was unable to speak.
Unable to name my pain.
According to Dr. Dan B. Allender, “A sexually abused person often forfeits the experience of pain by a process of splitting, denial, and loss of memory” (The Wounded Heart, 120). Allender explains splitting as the process of segmenting the self as “good self” or “bad self,” and each event or episode correlates to the divided self.
For me, I denied feeling pain. Especially feeling physical pain.
The last few months, God permitted me several opportunities to practice giving pain a voice. Twice within six months, I developed abscesses in sensitive locations.
Telling others about my situation hurt. Learning to vocalize my pain hurt. Sometimes I would find myself squirming and turning my head from side-to-side like I was saying ‘no,’ as the words ‘help’ came out of my mouth.
As I look back at other times when I have experienced pain, I recall thinking and verbalizing cliches, like “I’m fine. The pain’s not that bad,” “It could be worse,” or “Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.”
Expressing a complaint of pain was just that: a noisy, complaint that was best to be kept inside. After all, who really wants to know every ache and pain?
Although there is some truth to that thought, deadening the reality of pain denies the vibrancy of life. Suppressed pain can disclose itself as calloused, hard–and possibly–hostile living. That’s not the life I would like to imitate.
One reality that I’ve clung to throughout my healing journey is awakening the numb within so that I can feel. I want to feel love. Joy. Peace. Fun. I want to feel and experience the fun, silly nature of my growing children.
In order to embrace the pleasantries of feeling, I must also accept the reality of sorrow, disappointment, and pain.
Having a throbbing abscess wasn’t my idea of a fertile learning ground. Neither was sexual abuse.
Yes, I know. “God uses all things for good to those who know him and are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8.28). Although, that’s not really the thought one cares to dwell upon in the midst of pain and discomfort.
However, this passage spoke volumes to me:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Cor. 1.3-5
The compassion and comfort that God allowed during the recovery period after the abscess jaw-dropped my heart. Visibly I could see the overflow of Christ as my laundry was collected, washed, folded, and returned; my toilets scrubbed; my children cared for and played with while I rested and tended to my wound; my kitchen cupboards, freezers, and refrigerator stuffed with all kinds of foods; my mailbox filled with encouraging words, gifts, and scripture upon which to meditate.
How I would have missed the generous outpouring of grace, love, and comfort from the body of Christ if I had never expressed my need, my pain.
Likewise, I cherish the opportunity to pour out these words as a means of comfort for some of you. God hard-wired me with the ability to articulate thoughts in ways that some struggle and have found a kind of comfort in borrowing my words, my thoughts, my journey segments to apply to their own.
How humbling to have God’s hands upon this vessel through which his comfort flows.
My daughter still talks about those traumatizing stitches she needed. And she still cherishes that lavender, felted bear she received afterward as a means of comfort.
Today, I’m accepting the dare to face my pain, name it, and give it a voice before the throne of God.
Lord Jesus, the overwhelming nature of pain tempts me to deny it, numb my heart, and live a life of stoicism, keeping pain and joy away. Thank you for the comfort you lavish upon your children. I know that this comfort came at a great cost to you on the cross; thank you.
What’s your next step?
In what ways have you deadened pain’s pang? Take time to go before the Lord and ask him to show you areas of your heart in which you’re still numbed from the abuse. Find someone safe and willing to journey with you and share what you’ve heard from the Lord.