Time does not heal. Time is neutral.
I remember after Dan died wanting to leap ahead a few years so we could finally get to a place where it felt good again. But I know now that time alone will not heal. It’s what we do with that time that can heal.
This hit fresh this morning as I was journaling my daily thanks. I was thinking back over the previous day and what I had to be thankful for and realized that for the first time in years, I’d thought about plans for a couple of years down the road. Woop!
That may not seem unordinary to many of you. But when life as we knew it collapsed, making any kind of plan past the next week seemed unthinkable. My future was a blank slate. How in the world could I know what it held? Even our summer’s bucket list had become useless.
Within the space of a few hours, life had irrevocably shifted. I was unmoored from our life rhythms. We were no longer tied to Dan’s job. We were no longer tied to this city by Dan’s job. We were no longer tied to his work schedule, his days off, his vacation time, his plans, our dreams.
Would I be able to continue homeschooling? Would we stay here in this house? In this town? What would our finances be like in a year? Five years? Ten years? Would I be single from now on and, if not, what changes would that bring?
I couldn’t even fathom what life would look like long term.
I could only focus on a day to day basis. It took all my energy and hope and trust to get through one day. Sleep was blissful because sleep meant closing my eyes to the grief and the “new normal.” As soon as I woke and remembered this was now our life, I wanted to pull the covers back over my head. But I had seven kids who needed a mom. I focused on what was needed that day and couldn’t begin to think long-tetm.
I remember Rachel asking how we would celebrate her 18th birthday. We were barely two weeks from Dan’s death and as much as I wanted to mark this milestone birthday with her, as much as my heart wanted to celebrate her well, I couldn’t muster plans to pull off an 18th birthday party. I wasn’t even getting dinner on the table.
As the months rolled on, I slowly, slowly began to look a little further out. What would the kids study in school this year? What activities would they participate in? Would I stay in youth or move to another ministry at church?
But anything further than the current year was beyond my short horizon. My future was still wide-open, nebulous white space.
So I was pleasantly surprised this morning as I thought over what God was doing and what I was thankful for and realized I had been forming some long range plans. It’s another sign of healing, like new skin that begins to appear around the edges of a wound.
God is good. It’s not time that heals. Time is valueless. If time alone healed, there would be no bitterness. No one would get stuck in grief. Healing happens with hard work and God.
These last four years have meant processing the full impact of various emotions, of confronting fear and worries, of trusting God with things I can’t fix and things I don’t have answers for. Day after day after day, I’ve come to God bringing my despair and loneliness and pain. I’ve opened His Word and found Truth and Life and Hope. It’s been daily manna — enough for that day. The next day, I’ve had to go back and exchange my stuff for His.
I don’t expect that we’ll ever be completely healed — if that means made good as new. God may have blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former, and given him double the livestock and ten more children, but I guarantee you Job forever grieved his oldest ten children.
We will always walk with a limp. We loved deeply and miss deeply. But I trust there will be a day that new skin covers the wound fully and though tender, the hardest pain will be over.
Time does not heal all wounds.