Sometimes a memory blindsides me, taking me down an unexpected bunny trail I wasn't planning on taking and didn't really want to go down.
I was taking a nice, relaxing hot bubble bath. The last thing I decided to do before getting out of the tub was to grab the pedicure tool, that looks a bit like a miniature cheese grater, and to use it on any callouses trying to develop on my feet. That's when the memory hit. I remembered walking into Mama's house and there she was, sitting in her favorite chair and using the same type of pedicure tool, not on the tough skin on the heels of her feet, but she was scraping it on the tender skin on her palms and finger tips.
For years Mama had been tormented by bouts of insufferable itching on her hands. It would keep her up at night and torment her during the day. It wasn't constant, but it was frequent. When it happened nothing seemed to work to make it stop. She had mentioned it to the doctor and he, of course, had examined her for any external skin conditions. There were none. No medicinal side effects were found either. Mama told me, "The doctor probably thinks I'm crazy."
It was remembering what she had said that sent me down the bunny trail. I was nine years old. It was dark and I was in the car with daddy going to see Mama in the mental hospital. Mama was in deep suicidal depression and had committed herself to the hospital for the well being of us kids. What I wasn't aware of back then was Daddy's part in all of this, or the fact that soon after Mama got out of the hospital he would leave us for the other woman he was having an affair with while Mama was there. All I remember about the visit with Mama that night is the bright starkness of the room at the hospital and the darkness of the evening outside. I don't remember anything about my actual visit with Mama, what she looked like, how she acted. But, all those years later when I saw Mama scraping the flesh on her hands, trying to get rid of the horrible itching, I wondered if the itching in Mama's hands was some sort of nerve reaction to the shock treatments she had had on her brain. If it was, nothing external was going to make it stop.
Mama's time in the hospital, what she had gone though to get her there and what she went through while she was there, the trouble between her and Daddy, it was something we didn't revisit or talk about. Once Mama was home and Daddy left us, our life became about coping with the reality of the present. Mama got off of the incapacitating meds they had put her on in hospital, got a job, and went about the business of providing for us and taking care of us to the best of her ability. But, like the invisibly lasting effects of the shock treatments on Mama's nervous system, there were invisible effects on everyone in our family from the dysfunction of our past, Mama's breakdown, and the breakup of our parent's marriage. And every single one of us, in one way or another, tried to scratch the itch caused by that trauma using some external means. Drugs, alcohol, relationships, achievement, each one of the seven of us tried coping in our own unique way.
A pedicure tool is never meant to be used on the tender skin of your palms or fingertips. Mama's way of coping with an internal itch using an external tool only created more problems as the skin on her hands became sore and raw. Likewise, nothing external any of us tried could cure the inner pain our family had suffered. Many of us ending up raw and bleeding from the external means we used to try to cope with our inner turmoil. But, by the grace of God, one by one by one He began to help us come to the realization of the hopelessness of trying to find inner healing apart from the Healer. Some of us had to reach the depths of the pit before acknowledging that our seeking for relief apart from Him only succeeded in creating more pain. Yet, even in the depths of that self-dug pit, He was there waiting to lift us out and set us back on the solid rock.
They say that God never wastes our wounds and I believe that with my whole heart. I don't think I would ever have come to know God in intimate friendship if I hadn't been made so keenly aware of my utter and complete brokenness apart from Him. He has shown me repeatedly that nothing external and no one apart from Him could go back in time and help walk that little girl through the pain of her past into the wholeness of her present. What is true for me is true for you, too. No external means, not the things that are obviously self-destructive or the things that appear to be harmless and maybe even good, things like education, success, achievement, or relationships, can sooth the itch caused by our inner damage. Sooner or later, we've got to come to the end of our self and our manmade coping mechanisms, and seek the Only One who can reach and heal the root cause of our itch, of our pain. I've found Him to be a very willing Healer and I believe you will, too.