Recently, my right pointer finger started aching. Immediately, I thought about the time when Ben, his mother, and I were working in the yard of our first home in St. Louis almost twenty years ago. The gorgeous spring day turned a bit darker when I accidentally hurt my pointer finger with an electric hedge trimmer. The blade didn’t actually cut me. Somehow my finger wedged in place on the machine so that the back-and-forth motion squeezed my finger and made a gash the shape of a V that bled like crazy. We discussed the possibility of stitches but decided against it. Healing took a long time, and my injured finger felt tender for even longer.
When my finger began hurting again the other day, I thought it couldn’t still be sensitive after all these years. Then, I questioned whether the original injury had actually occurred on my right hand or my left hand. I examined both fingers. The scar had faded to the point that I couldn’t say for sure which finger had been hurt so long ago. I don’t think my current finger ache is related directly to the old wound. But that doesn’t matter because the new situation brought back the memory of the old pain. Isn’t that how it works oftentimes? The new life circumstances are not connected to the old emotional wounds, but the new brings the old to the surface.
I’ve encountered this more over the past year than I ever expected. My daughter Riley is seventeen, and some of her teenage dilemmas have brought up negative emotions for me that I never anticipated. Because I’ve feared that she might experience some of the same pain and rejection I experienced, I’ve been drawn back to what happened to me a long, long time ago as a teenager and young adult. I was surprised that those old wounds were still so tender and hurtful to me even now. I thought I’d processed those previous issues and had matured to the point where those memories wouldn’t cause pain anymore. I was wrong.
I dealt with a lot of internal strife trying to help my child navigate her own circumstances while I relived some of my old emotional injuries. I felt embarrassed and ashamed that new situations conjured such old emotions, humiliated that I was so easily susceptible to previous hurts and slights. I’m convinced, however, that those feelings of worthlessness did not come from God. In the Psalms, David said, “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.” (Psalm 25:3). Then, David prayed, “Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” (Psalm 25:21). God only wants to help us in our times of despair. We should seek God’s help in healing our emotional pain, regardless of when that pain originated. And God does not want us to devalue ourselves more or soak in a pool of shame because we haven’t fixed the problems already.
When we encounter old pain that we thought we’d dismissed, let us take refuge in God. Let us put our hope in God’s promises of love and comfort and let go of the shame that we impose on ourselves. God does not want us to feel worse but better. We may have to process our pain over and over before we can move on from the hurt, but God will help us every single time.