Whether the wound is visible or not
I left the surgery center, with molded cardboard splints, bandages, two substantial Ace wraps, and a sling supporting my right hand and wrist.
The dressing was so thick, I could punch a wall and be spared injury.
But I wouldn’t. Instead, I kept my hand across my heart — even when the sling slipped — as if saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
I followed instructions to the letter — including purchasing a T-shirt three sizes too large so I could accommodate the padded bandaging for which my surgeon was famous.
I would do anything in my power to protect my hand and ensure I did all I could to make the carpal tunnel release surgery a success.
The step-down method to healing
When I returned for post-op and hand therapy the day after surgery, the therapist gently unwrapped my hand, exposing the wound, and gently cleaned away some dried blood.
The area was swollen and bruised and joined with heavy black stitches.
“It looks good,” my therapist said.
In a Frankenstein’s monster sort of way, I thought.
When she covered it again, she used only a gauze pad, some wrap to hold it in place, and only one of the Ace elastic bandages. I felt naked.
But after each visit, I left with even less bandaging. Each time I felt exposed and vulnerable.
Finally, it was time to remove all the bandages.
It was the crucial step to healing
I not only felt naked; my wound was naked.
“Don’t worry if you see your skin split open and start to peel away once it’s exposed to air,” my therapist had warned.
“What? Even with stitches, I was afraid I’d tear open my wound — and now you’re saying I should expect it to happen? It’s OK?”
“It’s your skin’s normal sluffing process. It’s making up for all the time it was bandaged.”
I’m so glad she told me.
My skin peeled back from the incision, but all was well. (And I didn’t panic.) Underneath was new pink skin joined in a thin line.
On the surface, my wound hadn’t changed much in appearance between therapy visits, but below the surface, healing was rapid. Once I removed the bandages and exposed the wound to air, it looked different every day.
My body healed before my eyes.
What’s more, my hand will be pain-free, and no longer fall asleep at the wheel, in the pool, or while pouring out my heart via purple ink in my journal.
Eventually. I had to go through this process — this scary, painful process — to get there.
What about wounds we cannot see?
As I observe my body heal — so fascinating — I think about other wounds I have. Those emotional hurts and blemishes and failings I cover up and protect. The thought of exposing them makes me feel vulnerable and naked.
But maybe — like my surgical wound — exposing those hidden hurts to the light of day will allow them to heal, sluff away, and leave a beautiful scar.
I think of the disciple we call Doubting Thomas. When Jesus first appeared to the disciples after His death and resurrection, Thomas missed the encounter — and said he wouldn’t believe it was true until he saw Jesus — and His scars — in the flesh.
And what happened next?
Jesus appeared to him a week later and showed His scars. Even let the disciple touch them. Doubting Thomas no longer doubted (John 20:24-29).
Scars tell the story of recovery
Have you ever wondered why Jesus had scars? God can do anything — heal and leave no trace of damage — right? But Jesus forever bears the scars of His death for us. (Of course, if He hadn’t risen from the dead, His body wouldn’t have made scars.)
Did He do that just for Thomas? Would the doubter have believed if He’d seen Jesus without scars?
Our visible scars can help others believe, too — believe they can hope because we’ve survived something they’re experiencing right now.
Sometimes those scars are on our flesh.
Sometimes the wounds are relational or emotional, deep inside us or evident in our behaviors.
Who would know this healing has taken place if we have no visible scar? How can others find hope?
If scars speak of healing, we do too
When the doctor told me I had to have surgery, I was afraid. But I have a sister who’s gone through it. So has my workout partner Connie. Their testimonies gave me hope.
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do for others?
Paul said as much when he wrote to the Corinthian church about God’s faithfulness in getting us through hard times:
What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.(2 Corinthians 1:4, TLB)
I can imagine Thomas was so transformed by seeing Jesus’ scars he shared the story that Jesus had died and was now alive wherever he went.
Healing and scars — whether they’re visible or not — should make us storytellers, too.
Better than a tattoo…
Have you seen those T-shirts claiming, “Scars are tattoos with better stories”?
We have to heal our way to a scar and those better stories.
But we don’t always like the process.
When the therapist took away the cardboard splints and extra gauze and elastic Ace wraps on my first visit, I wanted the protection back.
Not so I could punch a wall, but because I felt vulnerable.
And with each therapy visit, she reduced my swaddling bandages. Each step-down made me uncomfortable initially, but I got used to less protection. Now, finally, I’m comfortable in my own skin – bandage free – as I continue to heal my way to a scar.
Ready to share my stories to encourage others.
What about you?
Are you ready to remove your bandages and expose your wounds so you, too, can heal?
It’s time. Someone else needs your story.