In my early teen years I sustained burns on my lower legs and feet. Very bad burns. My grandma used to cook fish on her back porch in an electric skillet. I can still smell, and almost taste that perfectly golden-fried deliciousness as I reflect. One particular time, I’d asked to fry the fish. When the grease finally heated to the set 450 degree temperature, I dropped the fish into the skillet. Since the fish was dropped, instead of placed, grease splashed onto my feet, ankles and legs. The pain was immediate and intense! My grandma, who did not drive, called my mom, who immediately took me to Children’s Hospital. By this time, the burned areas had turned into big bubbles and boils. The obligatory registration process was skipped as I was rushed back into a room with my mother whispering words of reassurance and comfort. Those whispers were drowned by my screams of horror as the doctors burst the boils and began to scrub the burned areas. I clearly remember watching flesh and blood fall away from my legs and feet. I thought I was going to die. My mother was visibly upset, and asked to doctor if he could stop for a moment, that this is clearly excruciating for me. The doctor told her the burns had to the scrubbed, that as painful as it was, the skin, blood and liquid had to be removed as they were now infected.
As any burn sufferer can attest, the recovery is brutal. The dressings. The cleanings. The pain. For me, just as brutal were the stares and comments. I wore bandages on my legs, and remember one particular time at church a group of the older high-school kids making fun of me. One of the females was a daughter of one of the ministers at the church and I remember her mocking me for “coming up in here all infirmed”…still, to this day I remember those exact words as I silently cried sitting up in the church balcony.
When we are injured by others because of abuse or neglect, betrayal or infidelity, slander or libel, and other ways, that pain is excruciating. The hurt can cause ugly wounds and boils on our hearts which seem unbearable. As painful as it is though, the only wise and healthy choice is to endure the pain of healing. While we may be tempted to not address the wound, it will only cause deeper, deadlier harm. Infection in the form of bitterness, unforgiveness, mistrust, self-hatred, and abuse of self will course through our lives and eventually consume us.
As a high school student, and then as a young adult, I shunned my burn scars. They were a painful reminder of my injury and the ridicule that followed. Now, I truly embrace my burn scars, and every other scar on my body. They reflect a wound that has healed, and are reminders of God’s grace through the pain and storm. Few of us live without injury, but all of us can live with healing. Though we still bear the scars, they sometimes fade a bit. Even still, certainly the pain is gone upon touch. The infection has been removed. We are free to embrace the reminders of how far we have come in our journey toward health and healing.