I recently watched The Darjeeling Limited, a Wes Anderson movie. One of the main characters, Francis, is introduced to us with a bandage wrapped around his head and nose. He never gives his brothers a great answer as to why he has it until the end of the film, but at one point, in the company of his brothers, he takes the bandage off. As the men look over the bruised and swollen face, Francis remarks, “I guess I’ve still got some more healing to do.”
I’ve been thinking about that scene a lot—about this idea of standing in front of the mirror and taking our bandage off in front of others and admitting you’ve still got some more healing to do. I wonder if, at times, I’ve reached for the proverbial scar removal cream when what was needed was more time, more healing. I think there’s a great fear of wasting time and a great desire to optimize our time. But what that mindset leads to is an unrelenting and unforgiving pursuit to optimize our pain and to hurry up and heal already.
This ain’t it.
I’ve found the only way I can resist this tendency is by having people that I stand in front of as I take my bandages off in the mirror. I need their fresh eyes and ears to see me, hear me, and help me, I need their words to remind that life’s purpose is not progress, that healing is not linear nor is it efficient. It is not easy standing in front of others as we bear our wounds, but it is necessary. I’ve found these people in the form of my counselor, parents and pastors, friends and family members.
For more than 22 years of my life, I was extremely private, very rarely bearing actual vulnerability and only sharing enough to have people think I was being vulnerable. It has been a beautiful part of adulthood for me to experience what happens when I can actually take the bandages off. As recently as a few weeks ago, I returned to counseling after a 9 month hiatus, not necessarily because something was “wrong,” but because being a human requires mental, emotional, and spiritual upkeep. It has taken me a long time to be willing to admit I’ve probably always still got more healing to do, whether that be relational hurt, unmet hopes, or fears for the future.
But this is not entirely bad news, because the good news of the Gospel is that Christ meets me here, too. When I look in the mirror, I most certainly see my wounds, as do you, but they do not define me. Taking off my bandages no longer needs to be a calculated risk, but a hopeful act of healing. I like how Dane Ortlund puts it in his book Gentle and Lowly: “As long as you fix your attention on your sin, you will fail to see how you can be safe. But as long as you look to this high priest, you will fail to see how you can be in danger. Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven. Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness.”
It’s the compassionate heart of Christ that resides in the people in my life showed me that the very thing I was most afraid of doing was what would bring the most healing, truth, and love. Sure, I’ve still got a lot more healing to do. But I never face this process alone. Thanks be to God.