Years ago, while pet sitting for a friend, I received a nasty dog bite. I still have a faint scar in between my middle and ring finger where the tooth sunk in, deep. I ran water over it right away to rinse the area, and at the ER, they had me soak it and bandaged me up, sending me home with an antibiotic.
However, when I followed up with my doctor, she unwrapped the gauze to reveal an ominously swollen, pink hand, knuckles lost in the rapidly advancing infection.
In spite of the fact that the sides of the skin had come together, there was still bacteria deep down inside, causing pain, pressure and growing rapidly. The surface appeared to heal, but I still had to address the deep wound.
As I've progressed in my physical healing journey through slow, deliberate diet and lifestyle changes over several years, I have gained new ground. Now I can go out to do multiple errands. I can plan a wedding. I can attend special events. Rejoining society in this way is complicated. I have been through deep, lingering darkness that made me rethink where I derive my worth, purpose, and identity, suffering that exposed my utter inadequacies and left me completely, excruciatingly dependent. I've also experienced rejection and isolation, loss of relationships so dear that I felt the grief of gradual death, though the people I mourned lived on.
So last Thursday, as I drove along the highway to the salon, the sunshine streaming in, the radio cheerily celebrating my new level of functioning and stamina, I felt in that moment as if I'd suddenly resurfaced where my head went underwater 10 years ago. It's as if nothing has changed on that same route I used to drive to college, and yet, everything has changed.
Though I appear no different, I'm not the same person I was before the fainting and the chronic dizziness, before the caregiving and the loss of my job, home, safety, grandparents, and father. But all that life experience is now trapped like an infection in a wound I don't know how to heal. The two sides of skin look the same and have come together on the surface, but the puncture of this last decade has profoundly altered who I am.
I write not with any answers or insight, not with any scripture or prayer. I write simply as an expression of how I'm processing these changes taking place, and the ambiguous path of living with one foot in the sick world and one foot back in shopping malls, restaurants, social chit-chat, and grocery stores.
Who am I now that I've been out of the workforce for so long? Where is my place? What is my purpose with some new energy? When I marry, what will this new life look like? How will I continue to help my mom as she struggles with ongoing problems?
I don't have the answers, so I keep looking to God with a dim, fragile hope that he will restore and redeem what I still cannot fix.
In Daniel 11, a detailed vision about the future presents many kings that rise and fall, leading to the end of days. Reading it is like reading a soap opera of characters that all try to exert their will and power to obtain something of meaning in this life. I scanned it with lazy eyes and reluctantly studied the scholarly notes attached.
In the small print, I found a kernel of encouragement for this time of confusion:
"Pious Jews would readily fall into bewilderment: how do these circumstances display God's concern for his people, and how will God ever use his now-insignificant people to bring blessing to the whole world? The vision is therefore reassurance for the faithful."
There is a way forward with the promises of God. Elsewhere in Daniel, I see that it's possible to get thrown into a fiery trial and come out not smelling of smoke. It's also possible to get thrown into a fiery trial and pass away. Regardless of what comes to pass here on earth, we have a God who knows the end from the beginning, and he, more than anyone, knows both the pain and the redemptive nature of deep wounds and scars.