Lent 2016: Opening Old Wounds

This entry, while not strictly a part of the Survival Kit, is a part of my ongoing journey to healing which I have committed to share in this forum. It is testimony of what God is currently at work in me to bring me closer to the man He has called me to be.

31 years ago on 20th February 1985, my younger brother, Robin, died as a result of a road accident.

The circumstances were that he was on a road he wasn’t supposed to go on because it was a dangerous road with a 60mph speed limit. He was turning right across the traffic to a slip road that was invisible until you were almost on top of it (as a result of his death the roadway has now been changed and is highly visible). He was where he shouldn’t have been, doing what he had expressly been told not to do on a route I had taught him some weeks earlier. The road in question led to a slip-road to the main North-South dual carriageway in the area, the A1, and a road bridge over it. I had taught him a game of sorts. Stand on the bridge and wave at the truckers in the big-rig trucks as they came up to the bridge. Mostly they would wave or sound their horn as they went by. For a kid it was a great rush to be seen and acknowledged by “real” men in the form of these tough drivers.

He was alone because we had had a fight and rather than go with him I had gone out with a friend.

The driver, who out of respect I will not name, never stood a chance of preventing the accident. I have never held what happened against him. Robin’s death was caused by a child making a childish move that could not have been predicted. The driver was not to blame.

I hope he finds this and can understand that I hold no ill-feeling toward him, rather I sympathise with him since as a driver myself I have caused injury to a pedestrian I could not avoid. The action was a terrible tragedy and I truly hope he has been able to forgive himself and not allow guilt to dog him the way it has me for 31 years.

My therapist – yes, I’m a Christian who sees a psychologist. Deal with it. – is helping me open the wounds. I’ve been blessed in that he has qualifications in theology as well as psychology and our sessions have a hefty chunk of pastoral counselling as well as psychological stuff in them. It was something I insisted on in finding the right persona for the job.

Time does not heal wounds. They close over and rot from the inside out if left to fester and not dalt with properly at the time.

My wife and I are watching “Grey’s Anatomy” at the moment, one season every two or three days. Today was difficult. The storyline was a child killed in a road accident and the sibling blaming herself, then the next episode showed one of the central characters being diagnosed with cancer in her brain – a different type to what killed my dad, but just too close to home.

The writing is excellent, but the acting is superb. I felt every emotion the characters went through as the story unfolded. As a result I can’t cry any more tonight – I’d die from dehydration.

Wounds, left to their own devices don’t heal. I have a first class vascular surgeon, Dr James Tunnicliffe, who treats injuries to my feet. I should mention here I can’t actually feel about 30% of my feet and as a result injuries happen that get left untreated will result in me losing one or both legs below the knee. So far the good doctor has been able to save both feet, and I am waiting for my faith to mature to the point where the nerves are restored. I do not believe this illness – diabetes – was “sent” to teach me something. It’s simply not in God’s nature to do that.

Wounds become sores. Sores become lesions. Lesions become infected and before you know it you have gangrene in what started as a pebble in your shoe and one of the best doctors in the country is telling you there’s a possibility you’ll lose your leg.

Emotional wounds are no different.

I was wounded when Robin died. I blamed myself because of the fight we had. I blamed myself for teaching him the route to the A1. I blamed myself for not going with him.

The 12 year-old inside me still does. Healing that child is a work in progress.

My wife is a doctor – and a damn good one. She treats regular stuff, which in South Africa is anything from a scraped knee to AIDS and TB – something First-World governments should consider – as standard day-to-day medicine. She has excised infected boils on my skin and flushed the area. It involved re-opening an old wound to get to the infection underneath, and it was extremely painful.

Until the wound healed.

God is doing that with me at the moment. He has opened up a 31 year old wound that has been eating me from the inside and crippling me every day since 1985. It’s painful. It’s unpleasant.

At the time all I let myself feel was bitterness and rage, and I feel that all the time. Bless her, my poor wife sees the worst of it that I show. Mostly I try to keep it venting to my sessions and my time alone with God. I tell her about it, but she deserves better than to catch the anger and venom that has been building up for so long.

We all have these wounds. I won’t presume to name them, but I know everyone I know is damaged in some way, and they all try to hide it – well, most of them do.

I’ll move on with the next part of the guide to survival in my next entry. This is simply to let you know that you’re not alone in holding onto the pain you carry.

And that Jesus wants to take it from you – if you’ll let him.

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