Nearly nine months ago, I sprained my ankle. In a classic moment of a klutz kerfuffle, I was carrying the vacuum down the steps, tripped, and landed on an overextended, turned out ankle. Although the initial injury seemed to only hurt for about a week, the injury flared up again several months later after starting a new workout routine.
Regardless of what precipitated the pain again, the dormant inflammation seemed to flare with a vengeance, and this time, hurt much more than when I initially sprained it. Walking or standing for long periods of time provoked frustrating pain and soreness. Normal daily tasks put a toll on my wobbly ankle. My aspirations for getting in better shape were dashed by this injury that I could no longer ignore. After visiting a few doctors, x-rays, and consultation, I was diagnosed with a residual ankle sprain and was sent to physical therapy.
Healing is coming, but it has come very slowly. I was hoping my issue would resolve in a matter of weeks, not months. I wanted healing to be linear, not circular. I wanted to be able-bodied, competent, strong, again and quickly.
The Patient Work of Healing
This process of healing happening in my body has made me think about the greater experience of healing on other levels: the healing of emotion, of psyche, of soul. It’s made me realize that, although there are the exceptions, healing most often comes at a slow pace. Our wounds are too tender for genuine healing to be rushed. There have been many lessons I have learned about healing on this journey to recovery.
Healing Takes Deliberate Work
Any one who has done physical therapy knows how boring and monotonous the exercises can be. I am usually coming up with every excuse not to do these exercises. But they are simple because they are targeted. They are meant to strengthen the weak parts so that our bodies work to grow stronger in very specific ways. Repeated movements, whether of the muscle, or head or heart, build that strength and resolve. It creates a unison to allow better function and range of motion.
If I apply those same disciplines to my head and my heart, imagine the expansion of the range of my heart: what I can reach and what can reach me.
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Healing is Not Linear
Whenever I had my check-in with the doctor, I found myself describing my progress often as two steps forward and one step back. Just when my strength seemed to be increasing and my pain seemed to be decreasing, I’d experience a setback. Discouragement would begin to quickly overcome me, and I would question if the treatment was really working. I doubted if I would ever get better, if things would eventually improve.
It wasn’t until I began to grasp less at expedient healing and accept the fact that it might be gradual for me that I noticed quicker improvements. Tensing to control only increases the body and heart’s natural ability to let blood flow back in and make space for a therapeutic growth.
It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better
Anyone who has experienced healing—whether it’s physical, spiritual, or emotional—knows that frequently the pain increases at the beginning of treatment. When probing the tender ligament, straining the fragile heart, putting pressure on the area of pain, it hurts. Sometimes it hurts like crazy.
But this is part of the release, part of the letting go, giving your body permission to begin the process of deep healing and long-term growth.
It’s OK to Not Be OK
The worst thing you can do when trying to heal is to push yourself too hard. Especially at the beginning of my treatment process, I knew better than to go for a long run or even a rigorous hike. In order to accept healing, we must first receive the reality of our fragility. Our slowing down, attentiveness, and care towards self are the critical steps in fostering a calm state for our bodies, minds, and souls to heal. If God is asking you to heal, physically, mentally, or spiritually I encourage you: slow down. Be attentive. Stop trying to do so much and be so much. Focus on the wound or the injury.
Be at peace knowing that you are worthy of healing and the time it takes to get there. You are worthy of setting aside for yourself rest and peacefulness and focus and the quiet spirit needed to do the hard work of healing. As the Jars of Clay song, “Faith Enough,” says “It’s just enough to be strong in the broken places.”
You’ll Still Have Trigger Points
Even after my ankle has healed extensively, there are some triggers I experience from time to time that make it flare again. It feels discouraging. I think to myself, “Ugh, I thought I was done with this.”
I must practice grace towards myself and towards time. To reassure myself that I have indeed, come far despite the fact that healing is ongoing.
Leaning Into the Brokenness, Leaning Into Christ
Maybe, most of all, it’s the humility of suffering and brokenness that is the hardest. We struggle with the void between what we want to be or do and the reality of things as they are. Brokenness, illness, ailment, heartbreak, loneliness. These are all our companions on this human journey. Not one of us makes it through life without experiencing these.
Surrender is a requirement, not an option, when it comes to the patient work of healing. Surrender and a firm belief in power that reaches into the depths of our aches, pains, and fragility and tenderly promises, “Behold I make all things new.”
Sometimes this healing comes on this side of eternity, and often times it won’t be fully realized until Christ restores us in the Heavenly Kingdom. But on this journey, we open up our painful places, our trigger points, and wobbly joints. We give time permission and space to bind our wounds. We do the work, and we let restoration settle in, slowly and surely.
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Maria Koshute is a librarian in Annapolis, Maryland. She enjoys living by the water as it provides a perfect backdrop for meditation, reading, and conversation. In addition to the literary arts she enjoys hiking and traveling. She enjoys time spent with family and friends, and watching the Holy Spirit work in unexpected ways through everyday life.