I recently had two separate encounters with two wounded individuals that sparked a thought…What happens when the wounds are not obvious and the broken seem whole?
Let me explain.
These encounters both occurred on the same day.
The first was in the morning on my return drive home after dropping off one of my teenage son’s to his summer internship. This wasn’t just any encounter…it was shocking. Something I can’t say I’ve ever seen before.
While navigating one of the many one-way streets in downtown Charleston, SC, I saw a man carrying an over-sized backpack, walking down the side walk. His gait appeared a bit disjointed. Thinking about it now, I’m sure that’s what initially drew my attention to him. My assumption is he was homeless. The expression on his face made it clear he not only carried the weight of all his belongings on his shoulders, but also the weight of the world.
But what made this encounter so shocking was the amount of blood that caked the top of his head and left side of his face. Blood.
I had mentally scanned and collected all of these details in literally a matter of seconds. And now that I had, I didn’t know what to do. The next few moments seemed to unleash a raging flood of thoughts and emotions in my mind…
- Do I stop and try to help?
- But I’m all alone, and he’s a strange man.
- The homeless people in this area are usually mentally unstable. What if he tries to attack me?
- I don’t have anything with me to clean and bandage his wounds.
- Do I call the police?
- By the time I circle back through all these one way streets, I could lose him.
I then decided to do the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. I prayed that God would place him in the direct path of someone who could help him…with both his physical wounds and spiritual ones. But I’d be lying if I said I felt relief. My heart wanted to help. And I felt guilty for not doing more.
Later that same day, I was on my way back downtown to pick up the same son from the same internship. There was an unusual amount of traffic on my route. To say it was heavy is an understatement. I inched through the congestion. I didn’t think I’d ever make it to my destination.
While sitting idle, I saw a woman. Standing in the median of the highway. This was strange because it was an area where you would never find anyone panhandling. This part of the highway begins as you descend from a bridge, so it’s always free-flowing. But not on this day.
She held a small, ragged and tattered sign that read, “Please Help.”
My heart went out to her. It was clear she was in desperate need. Her hair and clothing were dirty and disheveled. Her face sunken in. I’m not sure I saw any evidence of teeth. Her situation was clearly one of brokenness. Her wounds were visible. I couldn’t help but wonder if she had family. Children. Friends. I wondered when she last ate and where she would sleep.
And then I remembered…I had cash on me! I never have cash on me. I grabbed my purse as I inched up a bit more in what looked like an ocean of cars. I rolled down the window, handed her a folded $20 bill and asked her if she knew Jesus. Just then, cars began to move, and all I had time to do was bless her and remind her of God’s love. Traffic picked up to a flow, and I never determined what the hold up was. I can only assume God slowed the flow of traffic just so I, and likely many others, could bless her.
As I drove down the road, I reflected on the man from the morning encounter. I thought about the brokenness of these two individuals. How it was evident…visible, tangible, downright undeniable. The following thoughts filled my heart:
What happens when the wounds are not obvious? What happens when the broken seem whole? What about those we encounter daily whose hearts are fractured but show no outward signs of hurt?
I’m sure I know the answers to those questions. At the very least…I understand that journey. I was one of those broken ones who appeared whole…one of the wounded who seemed healed. And although I knew, in that moment, the weight those questions carried, I don’t think I had ever asked them aloud.
I think this is why it is important to demonstrate grace and kindness to others at all times. You never know what someone may have experienced or could currently be experiencing. You never know their story.
I believe that is the truest essence of humanity…being able to look at another knowing and admitting that their story is real. Like, really real. And it’s valuable and worthy of being told, shared and heard. And honestly, that’s one thing we all want…for our humanness to be seen and our voices and stories to be heard.
Being heard is validating. There is something about a person taking the time to hear you that unlocks ones willingness to be vulnerable and share. The difference between those whose wounds are visible and those who keep them hidden is the courage and willingness to share them and ask for help.
I can recall a time when I was too proud to even admit to myself that I was broken. And of course, by the time I realized I was, I lacked the courage to reach out for help.
So many women find themselves in that same situation. Hurting, reduced to fragments, hemorrhaging inside. But there is hope for those whose brokenness is concealed. And that hope begins with courage…the courage to be vulnerable. The courage to acknowledge the hurt and ask for help. That doesn’t mean you must carry a small tattered sign that reads “Please help” like the woman I encountered on the highway. What it does mean is spending time with God in prayer; talking with a loved one or a trusted friend; seeking guidance from a pastor or counselor.
There is hope for our brokenness.
Psalm 51:17 says that God honors a broken spirit and a contrite heart. At Psalm 34:18, the Word tells us that He is close to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit. This is why we can believe Him when He says at 2 Corinthians 12:9 that His strength is made perfect in weakness. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in our brokenness, God shows up and He is strong on our behalf.
Again, there is hope for our brokenness.
Last week on the premiere episode of The Birthing Hope Podcast, my guest Laura Hausman shared 3 vital keys to Finding Hope in Brokenness. She said we must:
- first, Know the heart of God,
- second, Know your purpose in God, and
- lastly, Know your value as a woman of God.
We don’t have to walk around in hiding. We can be honest about our wounds and begin to seek healing. When we begin the process of healing individually, we can begin healing our world collectively.
If you are one of the broken ones who appear to be whole, then I encourage you to do at least one thing today that will move you closer to a state of healing.
Read scripture. Spend time in prayer and worship. Write an honest journal entry. Share with a trusted friend.
Just do ONE thing.
Why pretend to be whole when you actually can be?!