I have spent the past few weeks packing up and hauling out a lifetime of memories, memorabilia, and furniture. As a result, my body is covered in bruises. It’s always an interesting experience stepping into the shower and discovering all the new editions to my black-and-blue family. I’m often surprised at just how colorful they can be. I’m also a little unsettled by the randomness of their placement. How did I get a bruise next to my belly button? Who gets that?
As I collapsed on my sofa one evening and began examining the new connect-the-dots pattern on my left bicep, I started thinking about bruises and broken bones. I was in the healthcare field for six years working in physical therapy. I treated patients with everything from: strokes to heart issues to fractures to surgical procedures. No matter what their reason for being in the facility, my department’s job was to help them achieve their highest possible functional level. The goal was to, hopefully, get them back to their prior level. But that wasn’t always possible. The patient could be very motivated and give their all in therapy. We would meet their effort and keep pushing them forward. But sometimes the injury couldn’t be undone. For example, someone who suffered a stroke may have permanent damage. They may not get back the full use of that arm or that leg due to the effects of the stroke.
Nothing hurt our hearts more than to see someone fighting so hard for their recovery, only to find themselves hitting an insurmountable wall. It took a lot of prayer and care to encourage them and their loved ones to not be disappointed. I was disappointed. I always wanted every patient to be able to go home and live as they did before. In fact, I wanted them to go home better than they were prior to whatever had brought them to our doorstep. That didn’t always happen. I used to joke that we’re in physical therapy but the therapy isn’t just physical. Many sessions required me to be a cheerleader (figuratively and literally). Other times I had to put on my counseling cap. Doing that job gave me some of the greatest and worst moments of my working life. I am so grateful for the years I spent helping others. It was humbling, frustrating, joyful, draining, and amazing often at the same time.
We dealt with a senior population, so a decent amount of patients were in the facility because they had fallen. I always felt so awful for these sweet souls who would come in covered in bruises from head-to-toe. I’m not exaggerating. Some of these lovely people would have a bruise that started from the top of their head and seemed to end at the bottom of their feet. Many of the women would be embarrassed because of how they looked. They didn’t want anyone to see them like that. The bruises didn’t necessarily hurt, but their presence caused these ladies a great deal of pain. They couldn’t wait until the colors started to fade and could be covered up with makeup.
Are you covering up any bruises?
I certainly have, and I don’t mean physical ones. I’m talking about the ones that you can’t see but you definitely feel. Whether it was an unkindness done to you, or a betrayal or a disappointment from a loved one, or whatever your specific example may be, you got bruised. There’s a saying about how you can bruise someone’s ego. It’s usually meant in a somewhat derogatory manner directed at someone who was rightly deserving of the takedown. And I’m willing to admit that I’ve gotten more than my fair share of those bruises. They hurt too, but if we learn our lesson, we tend not to get so many of them in the future.
There is, however, a different kind of bruising not of the ego, but of the heart. This is what I want us to focus on for a little bit. If I’m being honest, I’ve had my heart bruised and I’ve also had it broken more than once.
Is it better to be bruised than broken?
I don’t know if there is a better option. They both hurt. You might say that a broken heart is the worst thing to get over. I’d be inclined to agree with you, but then I think of my own experiences. As awful as the heart break was, that place was a place of finality. The breaking typically meant a breaking away from whatever or whoever had hurt me. Yes, it was very hard to recover. I’m not discounting that. But in the end, there was a strange kind of release and freedom. Has that ever happened with you?
In contrast, when my heart’s been bruised I’ve tended to stay in the situation. I may or may not even verbalize that I’ve been hurt. I just try to cover it up until the colors fade and disappear. Have you ever noticed how some physical bruises take a really long time to heal? They can even seem to get larger and uglier before they’re gone. They seem to stick around forever! They manage to go through all the colors of the rainbow. For some unknown reason, I always keep hitting that bruised spot over and over again.
Come to think of it, I see some parallels between my physical and emotional bruising. When my heart is hurting, it doesn’t heal in a quiet or small way. The pain may increase and get “larger” with time as I relive and overthink the injury again and again. The “colors” change as my thoughts or feelings about the injury evolve. I may go from angry to upset back to angry, take a quick detour to depressed then back to angry again. So many pretty colors. And I just can’t help but hit that sore spot over and over again while I’m supposed to be healing. Can you relate?
Time heals all wounds, or is it time wounds all heels? I’m good with either one. But seriously, time is a beautiful gift when it comes to healing whether it is from physical or emotional injuries. Initially it may seem that time almost stops. We can feel stuck and wonder if we’ll ever feel better again. We can. We will. I think deep down a small part of us may even know that. We just hurt too much to concentrate on anything else.
Healing is a process. It’s not one you have to do alone.
If you’re reading this and you’re dealing with bruised emotions or a broken heart, let me encourage you. You. Will. Get. Better. But don’t take my word for it; you know I brought receipts.
All verses were from the NIV version at biblegateway.com, emphasis added.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
We are fortunate to have a loving Father in heaven who is close to us and helps us heal. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy or that it will happen in an instant. If you need to speak with a professional, please do so. Just as some physical injuries require medical interventions, so may our emotional ones. Your specific path is your business. I’m just here to encourage you to take that first step. I want you to know that I pray for you and believe with you that your broken heart can mend. I agree with you that those emotional bruises are painful. But they won’t last forever. You know what does last forever? God’s love for you. We don’t call Him the “Great Physician” for no reason. Make an appointment with Him today. He’s always got time in His schedule for you. No waiting. Unlike those times when our patients would plateau or hit a wall and their progress would stop, if you let Him, He can bring you back to wholeness. Let Him do His work to help you mend and come back stronger than you were before you got hurt.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,