Tag Archives: emotional scars


Return to God

Return to me with your whole heart—Joel 2:12

One theme that emerged during my recent retreat was home, as in coming home or being at home.

I had brought last year’s journals with me, and one entry reflected a conversation with a friend who had been going through a rough time but was starting to feel like himself again. He said he had started to feel like he was inhabiting his body again and that he was looking out through his own eyes.

It was as if he was coming home to himself.

I resonated.

For so long, I have felt out of sorts. Great loss and grief can do that. So the idea of coming home to myself is appealing. I want to live in my body and to look at the world through my own eyes.

Another coming home is the actual coming home to the place where I was born and grew up, which is what I did five years ago. Living near my family is a blessing for which I thank God every day.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityA third coming home is returning to God, and in the midst of Lent, I find myself thinking of what it means to come home to God.

Lent invites me to turn away from what separates me from God and turn toward God.

Recently, several people have come to me with questions about prayer or about nonprofit management. After each of these conversations, I am left with a clearer understanding that (1) I have a depth of experience in these two areas, and (2) my experience can be helpful to others.

Sometimes, though, my experience leads me to insights that might be uncomfortable or challenging to those asking for my help.

A young woman came to talk with me about the anger she carries toward the man who raped her. “How can you suggest I forgive him?” she asked with an edge to her voice.

“Your anger does not affect him; it affects you,” I offered. “He doesn’t even know that you are angry; he has moved on.” Not forgiving him does not hurt him in the least; but holding onto her anger keeps her in bondage.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityI think she both wanted to hear that message and did not want to hear it. Forgiveness can be so difficult, and radical forgiveness—forgiveness for some horrible act—can seem impossible.

I know because I, too, hold onto some anger for past hurts. I want to forgive, even the people who hurt me the worst, who left the deepest scars; it is difficult. I pray for the grace to let go, and I look to Jesus’ example for inspiration. At the moment of his death, he forgave those who put him to death.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityComing home to God, for me, means being true to my history and experiences. It means speaking of radical forgiveness and believing in it.

I want to return to God with my whole heart—and with my heart made whole.



Scar tissue

“Say only the good things people need to hear, things that will help them…” Ephesians 4:29

Last week, a friend who is a cancer survivor thought her cancer might have returned, but, thankfully, it was only scar tissue that was causing her discomfort. Her doctor said it should be a relatively easy fix.

Thinking of physical scar tissue reminded me of the other kind of scars, the invisible kind left from emotional hurts, heartbreaks and betrayals.

If only emotional scars were a relatively easy fix! In my experience, they are not.

Over the years, I have done a fair amount of work on healing my emotional scars, and I have made progress. But, new hurts still happen and sometimes a new hurt can re-open the wound of an old one, a hurt I thought I had healed and left behind.

If I were able to trace my bad behaviors, I am fairly certain they all lead back to some emotional hurt and its scar tissue.

Usually, I am not aware I am carrying scars—until I say or do something hurtful or at least not helpful. My scars can blindside me and leave me somewhat bewildered. “Why did I say that?” is the question that often opens a pathway to scar tissue.

A while ago, the job I thought was permanent turned out to be temporary, when the person who had quit changed her mind. There were early signs of her change of heart, so I was prepared. But I was still disappointed and felt a sense of betrayal. I had no say in the matter, leaving me feeling vulnerable and disempowered—two things I am not particularly good at dealing with.

I accepted my fate, though, and moved on to a new job, which turned out to be a great fit for me.

I thought I had dealt with my hurt feelings, that I had let go and moved on. And then, the other day, I found myself making a point by using a story related to this old job. While the story was true, it was not helpful. I could have made my point with another story, a more neutral one, but I chose this one. “Aha,” I thought. This issue is unresolved; the scar still itches, and I scratched it.

If I were honest with myself, I was aware of a tinge of remorse even as the words were coming out of my mouth. By the time I finished, I felt regret filling in the spaces where those words had been. Within hours, I knew that my story was pointing out to me an emotional scar; I was not completely healed. I had not let go. I had spoken out of my hurt.

I remember learning that pearls come from sand inside clam shells, irritations that are transformed into something beautiful. I pray for the same transformation for my scar tissue, that my hurts and scars can become the gift that helps me to be more forgiving and compassionate.