"I'll take it down myself," said my forty year-old husband. "I'll cut the branches off, leaving stubs to stand on as I go higher, then I'll borrow a chainsaw and cut the trunk down in three-foot sections. It'll be simple. I can have the whole thing done in a couple of days."
We were both wrong. Oh, sure, the branches were easy enough to dismember--even with a hand saw. Then came to day when the chainsaw was borrowed and the long, orange electric cord that would give it life was plugged into an outside socket. Jim set a ladder against the tree trunk and used it and the branch stubs to carefully make his way up the tree. Near the top, he tied the chainsaw off with a long cord, then strapped on a homemade safety belt outfitted with a quick release catch.
With the pressure suddenly released, the saw teeth spring to life, continuing the job they were designed to do. They cut. Only this time it wasn't the tree trunk they worked on. It was Jim's left arm. And they did their job with shark-like proficiency.
That Jim had been able to climb down the tree unaided seemed a miracle, as did the fact that he never went into shock. Even more miraculous, said the two physicians who did the 2 1/2 hour reconstruction surgery, was that though there had been multiple tendons and muscles cut to within a hairsbreadth of a major nerve and tendon, no irreparable damage had been done.
For six weeks Jim wore a cast that started at his fingertips and ended just below the elbow. Friends and relatives who came by to visit found him in good humor. In time the chewed-up muscles healed, a nicked tendon encircling the wrist knitted together, and with exercises that were often painful, he finally regained complete use of his hand and arm, with no strength loss apparent.
|The scars didn't photograph well, but were highly|
visible in person.
There are times in our lives when circumstances scar us to the point that although we heal on the inside, the reminder of that wound remains forever visible to ourselves and those around us. When those who didn't know how Jim had gotten the scars asked about them, it gave Jim a chance to tell the story--not only of his own foolishness in attempting a job he was ill prepared to do, but the story of how God in His mercy had spared him the loss of his arm.
In time, Jim saw those scars as a vehicle for witnessing to the Lord's care and compassion. I never saw him even falter in telling the tale to anyone who asked. Eventually, we both came to see that what the devil had meant for evil, God had used for good. Not many came to ask Jim about his relationship with the Lord. But they did ask about the scars. It was an opening to sharing Christ that Jim may not have had any other way.
I often see a bumper sticker around town that says, "Be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone is fighting some kind of battle." My heart knows that to be true. Sometimes the trial shows on our face or in our stance or in our walk and is obvious to anyone with an eye to see. Sometimes the trial shows itself in our actions or words. Those who know me well say they can see in my face when I'm having a bad day or week or month. Those closest to me instantly realize when I've been blindsided by the grief of loss. They immediately understand that I'm missing Jim to the point of once again shedding tears and wanting to be left alone so I can sort things out in the Lord's presence.
I have no purple ridged scars across my heart or face or chest. Yet they are there. No one can physically see them, but within me I know the healing isn't finished, for the wound still hurts, causing me pain at unexpected times and unexpected places. Sometimes I think about Jim's chewed arm and marvel at how quickly it healed and I question God as to how long it will take my heart to heal from the wound of losing Jim. I often question the Lord as to how long I will be in this fragile state and if I'm still of this earth, what plan does He have for me? He always answers with the same words: First, you must finish grieving, and then we'll talk."
I often feel as though I am in physical therapy, as Jim was with his hand and arm. Get up, stretch, take a short walk, feel the sun on my face, admire the flowers blooming in my yard, watch the hummingbirds flit from one flower to another. Each day feels much the same; each day is different. Some days are happy and content; others are filled with sobs of sorrow for the mate no longer with me and the absolute knowledge that only half of me remains tied to this world.
One small step at a time. Next week I'll be planting my herb garden. All that's left of it are those plants that would fend for themselves. The rosemary bush is getting big; the sage has come back from nothing, sprouting anew from buried roots. Time now to plant the basil, the tarragon, the thyme, chives and parsley. I know it's a little thing. But little is all I can handle right now. At least it will get me out of Jim's big maroon recliner and into fresh air where I can feel the sun on my face, listen to the birdsong coming from the canyon across the street, watch the hawks that live there wheeling the currents, inspect the new rash of baby lizards that love to scramble up and down my fence.
It's not a big thing for most. But right now, it seems to be all I can handle. It's my self-imposed version of physical therapy. I suspect the scars of loss will always be with me. I think they are permanent. Yet unlike the scars Jim wore, mine are invisible. To everyone but the Lord and me. He and I alone know where they reside. Even so, I know God will continue to walk with me, one step at a time as I continue to heal. I trust His promise in Hebrews 13:5, and I especially like it in the Amplified Bible, where it says, "...be satisfied with your present circumstances and with what you have; for He (God) Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up not leave you without support. I will not. I will not. I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake nor let you down, relax My hold on you. Assuredly not!"
A big promise from my Big God. The One I have trusted since childhood and Who has never once let me down. It soothes my being, knowing the history we have together and that is what I count on to get me through this dark valley and into the light once again. Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me it's time for baby steps. I can do baby steps--even while bearing the scars of loss.
"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed--" 2 Corinthians 4:8,9