It’s the stairs you don’t see that hurt you.
That was the case, anyway, when I walked through my friend’s tiled entryway, six months pregnant and carrying my 3-year-old, Lucy, on my hip. I didn’t notice the step down.
Without warning, the ground disappeared. I lurched forward, twisting my ankle. Breaking our fall by slamming my free hand on the tile, I cracked my platinum engagement ring.
Safe on the floor, I set Lucy down. I was lightheaded from relief: I hadn’t dropped her, broken my wrist, or hurt my unborn child. Afterwards, the bruise on my knee healed quickly. I reset the ring.
The only sore spot was my ankle. I wrapped it, assuming it would heal. But three weeks later, nothing had changed.
Healing’s a funny thing. Children’s bodies mend in a flash. But for adults, the process is far less certain. My hips still complain about high school ballet training. My husband Dyami’s ankle has never recovered from a compound fracture. Some family members’ injuries have become lasting limitations. So when my ankle injury lingered, I felt afraid. What if my limp was permanent?
I moved more and more gingerly. One day, Dyami stopped me as I put on my brace. “Don’t baby your ankle.” he said.
I looked at him in disbelief.
“Sprains are different than breaks,” he said, seeing my skepticism. “Move it on purpose. Write the alphabet with your toe.” I waved him away, telling myself he was no doctor. Doing nothing felt safest. But as the day wore on, I realized I had little to lose. Sitting on my bed, I began the alphabet. It hurt. My fear rose, but I gritted my teeth and kept going. K, L, M, I wrote. R, S, T.
By X, Y, Z, the pain had disappeared. It was as if I’d oiled a squeaky hinge.
I put weight on it—it didn’t hurt at all. I almost laughed out loud. I’d been avoiding the pain for the better part of a month, marinating in my fear, and all it had taken was the alphabet?
Repeating that exercise cured me within a week.
I’ve noticed that when my body is not well, my first impulse is to pretend nothing is wrong.
Miraculous, I thought. And it was. Getting better was a ridiculous gift. Healing underlined how paralyzed I’d felt. I’d hunkered down, afraid of listening to or trying anything new, and nearly wrote off the treatment that cured me.
Since that injury, I’ve noticed that when my body is not well, my first impulse is to pretend nothing is wrong. I put off paying attention, asking questions, or looking at the seriousness of the wound. I do not want to let my injuries teach me. I let fear tell me it’s no good to listen.
Despite our bodies’ amazing capacity to knit themselves back together, true healing requires our care and intention. Wholeness isn’t a passive process—it’s more like a conversation. In my case, healing required a dialogue between me and my husband, and between me and my body. I had to talk back to my fear and passivity. I had to have an argument with pain.
None of us recovers from the injury of avoidance. When we stop asking questions, stop paying attention, stop telling God we’re afraid and expecting a reply, we hurt ourselves more than physical ailments ever could.
“Do you wish to get well?” Jesus asked the paralytic (John 5:6). When I’m afraid, I wish Christ didn’t want to dialogue about the healing I actually need. Instead of conversation, I want a quick trip back to “normal”—meaning the point when I didn’t have to speak my weakness out loud.
Real healing always involves an awkward chat with reality. When we ask to be made well, we admit we’re not okay. To heal, we must grieve what we’ve lost, feel fear for our future, acknowledge our limitations, and prepare for a long journey. But healing cuts and bruises, not to mention our spirits, is an everyday resurrection. It’s the empty tomb brought into our daily lives.
When I’m afraid, I wish Christ didn’t want to dialogue about the healing I actually need.
Bruce Kramer, after being diagnosed with ALS, wrote, “The choice was not whether or not I would be cured, but would I be saved.” Instead of fighting his disease, Kramer asked God to tell him how to live well while dying.
Though not every physical ailment gets put back to rights, bearing those crosses opens us to God’s presence. Every time we experience injury and loss, Christ invites us to live without fear, without closing our eyes. Even if things do not go back to “normal,” honest dialogue with God about our weakness brings wholeness that transcends disease.
We heal when we stop addressing discomfort, and even pain, as if it were death. Despite our human frailty, Christ asks us to live fully alive.