I’ve sat in coffee shops, on Zoom, in Instagram direct messages, and on my grey thrifted couch in my apartment, hearing a variation of the same story over and over. When women say the words out loud to me, taking a shaky breath before they plunge in, I feel a hundred different things: tenderness towards this section of their story, grief over the pain they’ve been caused, and pride for the step of courage they’ve taken in speaking their story out loud.
After I shared my article last year on (in)courage about beginning the journey of healing after experiencing sexual assault, I’ve talked to a lot of women (and some men) who share this sliver of my story.
Over and over, after these women have been courageous enough to speak their story out loud, they’ve often asked me, “But when does the pain stop? When will the healing kick in?”
I’m not a counsellor, and more than anything, I’d encourage you to find someone trusted to speak with. But for years, I felt this same way — frustrated with myself for getting sucked back into the pain, angry for “not being able to get over it.” I told this to a therapist once. I told her I felt broken because I kept feeling so much pain. Why wasn’t I healing the way I thought I should be?
I asked her if it would always be this way, and she told me healing can look like a spiral.
“Often we think of healing as one straight line. The problem with that is, we easily become discouraged because it seems as though we take steps backward,” she told me. Her hair was long and dark, her dress the same. “If we look at healing like a spiral then we can see we’re actually always moving forward. But just because we are in the spiral doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pain.”
I stared at the picture she had drawn — the shape of a spiral on the otherwise blank page.
“The spiral seems like a longer journey than the line,” I told her.
She laughed. “It is.”
Maybe for some of us, healing is more of a journey than a moment. I remember sitting in a hospital chemotherapy suite with my mom, seven years ago. I couldn’t comprehend how something that made her so sick could also be healing her. I wanted her healing to be the same as the woman in Mark 5 — for my mom to touch the hem of Jesus and be immediately healed. It ended up looking like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. My mother’s healing hurt.
I think healing often hurts. If your healing is anything like mine, then the spiral metaphor my counsellor gave might ring true for you. Often my healing feels like a spiral, looping round and round, some days feeling right side up, and other days feeling completely upside down.
But no matter what, I’m healing.
I praise God for the moments of immediate healing, but I’m learning to praise God when healing is slower too. Healing — whether immediate or long — is always a miracle.
It’s a miracle, not just because we are healing, but because Jesus is with us for every second of it. Healing doesn’t mean we revert back to who we were before. We carry those scars and those wounds along with us, even as we heal. Even Jesus, after He entered death and rose again, carried the scars of His past.
Healing is a miracle because Jesus never makes us do it alone. By His wounds we are healed, His scarred body covering ours, and I am reminded that in every moment of my pain, He was and is with me.
If your healing journey feels akin to a spiral, know this: Jesus is walking that spiral with you. You are still moving forward. You are healing.
I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Matthew 11:28-30, of Jesus asking, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
We can rest in Jesus, even as we walk through our spiral of healing. We can keep company with Him as we heal, linking arms with Jesus, knowing He’s already gone ahead of us. We are healing because Jesus is with us.
And no matter what, He’s never letting you go.Leave a Comment