Every one of us has unexamined and unexplained pain. When we first suffered that pain, we buried it in our past so that we could move on in our lives. This is a normal human response and it is often a God-given response without which we simply could not go on at the time. Perhaps the clearest example is the situation where a person in a bad accident or other physical trauma has no memory of the accident itself. Likewise, a victim of child abuse may repress and forget that abuse because, as a child, he or she is completely helpless against it and the only way the child can survive is to bury the pain.
I suspect that the well-kept grave is often the one where we buried our childhood pain, caused by abuse or confusion or just misunderstanding. We buried pain we couldn’t face, pain we didn’t understand or were powerless to cope with. And through the years, we have maintained the grave. We make excuses for keeping it and keeping it decorated:
- “I’m like this because my mother did … or didn’t …
- “I’m like this because my father, or my teacher or someone else… did … or didn’t …
- “I’m like this because my older brother or sister got all the attention” or “because I was the oldest and had all the responsibility” or “because I had some childhood illness or injury.”
In addition to our well-kept graves, we have buried some of our pain in graves that we once knew well but have since forgotten about. These graves may be overgrown with weeds and brambles, but some part of us that is buried there needs to be resurrected.
Perhaps this is adolescent pain from that time in our lives when we began to doubt our value and to believe that we didn’t fit in or we weren’t good enough. We buried the pain and conveniently forgot about it. God knows what we buried there and God remembers where the grave is. But like the well-kept grave, when we see the forgotten grave again we don’t want to disturb it.
The unknown grave is most likely where we buried adult pain. Why? We still experience the pain of rejection, loss, and failures, but we think we’re supposed to be “too mature” to feel rejected or to have our feelings hurt.
So we bury the pain — along with some of our courage and creativity. And we don’t even realize that we do it!
The unknown grave is like the valley of dry bones that God showed to Ezekiel. God remembered where the bones were and said to those bones: “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live…. I will put my spirit within you, and … you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act.”
It is common for us humans to bury and forget, or to minimize as “nothing significant” other pains we experience. But with each painful experience that we bury without healing, we also bury a piece of who we are:
- a piece of memory, without which we cannot fully know ourselves
- a piece of our self-esteem, without which we become judgmental and angry toward ourselves and others
- a piece of a foot, without which we are crippled and cannot venture out and take risks
- a piece of a hand, without which our creativity is limited
- a piece of our heart, without which we cannot feel full compassion both for ourselves and for others
Look at your graves. What pain have you buried there? What parts of yourself have you buried there?
We have all lost piece of ourselves — and buried those pieces along with the old hurts we simply could not bear. The good news for you today is that God knows where every piece of you is buried! In God’s own time — and when the time is right for you — God will show you where each piece is buried, one at a time, and will restore you to wholeness!