I have spent thousands of hours fishing in my life and a month ago I hooked something I have never hooked before-myself. With the help of a large Northern Pike that I was trying to get off of a multi-hooked lure I buried one of the free hooks deep into my left thumb. It was a barbed hook which greatly increased the pain as well as the challenge of extricating it from my thumb. Since the barbed hook was already half way through my thumb I debated for a moment whether to try and push it all the way through, or to try and pull it back out. After a few minutes of debate as to what to do next I made what turned out to clearly be the right decision. I had my wife drive me to the local emergency room, which thankfully was only thirty minutes away.
The doctor was able to see me quickly and assured me that he knew exactly what to do, as the hospital was located in an area in Northern Wisconsin known for its great fishing. He explained that he had extracted hundreds of hooks from many hands and feet over his many years of practice. Once my thumb had been numbed he went to work and ended up pulling the hook out the way it had gone in, which unfortunately allowed the barb to do more internal damage as it was being extracted. Soon the ordeal was over and after expressions of deep gratitude to the medical staff I was on my way with a well-bandaged left thumb.
It’s been a month since this happened and I have learned an important lesson from the healing process. What has been remarkable is how quickly the surface level of my injury has healed. The hole in my skin where the hook entered (and exited with the help of the doctor) has completely healed. If you were to look at it you would hardly be able to notice that there had been an injury. The internal healing, however, has been much slower. I still have a great deal of pain deep within my thumb, and any careless bumping of it continues to cause me great discomfort.
The lesson in this for me is perhaps obvious. Just because a person’s wound may look healed and totally fine on the outside, it doesn’t mean that the deeper, internal healing process matches that outside appearance. A person who has experienced a traumatic loss of any kind may appear “fine” shortly after their painful experience. They may even report that they are “fine” when asked. But we need to be aware that the healing of the deeper wound from their loss will take much longer. It is also wise to know that any experience that bumps up against this loss will continue to cause discomfort for a long time, perhaps for years, to come. This lesson applies not only to individuals, but to couples, families, organizations, and society as a whole. The deep wounds of racism in our culture are just one example of how long, and how painful the process of a deeper, internal healing can be.
Perhaps you know someone who looks they are doing “fine” on the outside, but is still experiencing a deeper, internal pain on the inside. Perhaps that person is you in some way. I hope my painfully learned lesson with a fish hook can serve as a reminder that deeper healing always takes longer than we expect and we are wise to be careful and gentle with ourselves and/or others during the healing process.