Several weeks ago I was reaching above my head for a can of vegetables and it fell out of the cabinet. I tried to dance my feet out of the way and even attempted to grab/slap it. I think I made the impact worse. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I yelled so loudly that I startled my children. They helped me hobble to a chair and get an ice pack on it. The edge of the can hit right above my inside ankle bone and an immediate knot and bruise appeared. In medical terms that is referred to as a contusion. Over the next few days I had moments of seriously wondering if I had broken my foot. But, then I would rest it, ice it and take ibuprofen for the swelling and pain. It would feel a bit better and I’d soon be about my business until I’d step in just the wrong way. The ouch would start again, the hobbling and the throbbing.
I’m a busy mom of seven and still homeschooling five of them. Our school year had just started and I was impatient with this mystery injury. It was indeed a matter of confusion. A friend was kind enough to loan me her walking boot and that helped a lot to relieve the stress on my foot when walking or standing at the stove. My family was super supportive, taking many of my steps for me. But, after two weeks I was still having pain and went for X-rays. Thankfully there was no broken bone, no fractures. The doctor said he thought the can hit in more than one place as I had three bone bruises. My first thought was, “It’s only a bruise?”. He must have seen the expression on my face as he went on to explain the contusion confusion. A bone bruise is different than a soft-tissue bruise. I listened skeptically as I was a bit embarrassed to have gone to the doctor for a two-week old bruise. But, he was right. As he expected, in less than a week, I was cautiously walking and standing normally.
So, why in the world am I taking space on my blog to write about ‘just a bruise’? Here’s why. Life can really bang you up sometimes. I’m thinking a fair few of you reading this have been bruised in your spirit lately. Maybe even your heart feels the strain of an unexpected blow. Perhaps you’ve been caught off guard and were injured emotionally. Could be that you are impatient with the healing process. You may be anxious to get on with life and busy yourself with what needs doing. It is possible that right when you think you are recovered a miss-step sets it to throbbing again.
Here is what I learned from my contusion confusion. All bruises are not the same. Some are nothing but a little surface discoloration and slight tenderness. Some can actually damage the soft tissue and muscle. They need extra care. Then others actually bruise the bone. Those hurt a lot and take a lot longer to heal. A bruised bone requires more intervention, more rest, more time. Often times, a brace of some sort is required to lessen the stress of normal activity while it is healing.
Now, I don’t know what kind of bruise you a facing today. I suspect that you may be fully aware that you are still in the healing process. You can be facing betrayal or grief. You may be experiencing shame or embarrassment. You could be struggling with trusting others or maybe even trusting yourself. You might even be good and aggravated at your actions that made you vulnerable to the injury in the first place.
The doctor explained to me that the places on my foot where I had the bone bruises were not protected by much fleshy tissue. They are more vulnerable to an impact injury. This is why people in construction wear heavy boots to protect their feet.
Vulnerable is not a word any of us embrace but, it is an accurate description of our emotional and spiritual state many times. When we fostered for fifteen years, I was always filled with compassion at the vulnerable state of the children that came into our home. Eyes wide with fear or anger, they would often size us up suspiciously as they limped in with their wounded hearts. They had been bruised. They needed to recover. They needed time. They needed rest. They needed healing.
If we tried to move too quickly in the new relationship, they might recoil out of pain. If we were making progress the slightest miss-step might take us back to square one. There would be days when the injury to their ability to trust seemed beyond repair. There were times when they needed more specialized care. There were times when we only had a short time to minister to their bruised hearts before they returned to places where they would be at risk for further bruising. There were definitely times of contusion confusion. We prayed a lot as we tried to determine just how deeply they had been bruised. We applied support through firm healthy boundaries. We applied love and mercy and grace liberally to try to ease the swelling. We didn’t expect more than they could give. We tried hard not to be discouraged when it seemed all our progress had been lost.
I am so thankful to say that I did see healing and the ability to function return in many of their lives. Sometimes we were just a temporary safe place. Sometimes we became a more permanent safe place. If you need a safe place, Jesus has prepared such a place for you. I know it may seem to some like a crutch to rely on the Lord. I understand the inclination to rely on yourself. But, if you are ready to progress and complete your healing, don’t refuse the offer of a strong arm and a place of safety. Lean heavily on Him. You can trust Him. He won’t drop you. He won’t leave you where He found you. He understands. He was bruised too.
“But, he was wounded for our iniquities (transgressions), he was bruised for our sins (iniquities): the chastisement of our peace was upon him and by his bruises (stripes) we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5