Last week my wife Dorrie was working on some household project and she smashed her finger while hammering. It hurt like the dickens and even though she was quick to put it in cold water and bandaged it up, the pain continued for days. Finally she went to the doctor and got it xrayed. The doctor told her that it had been fractured in at least 5 places. This is “so Dorrie” – a nurse practitioner who hesitates to call in the medical folk and a strong woman who is known by our grandchildren as the Grandma who fixes things. I am just Nana.
Of course the grandchildren themselves were very upset to see Grandma with a bandaged finger and to know that she was still in pain, this many days later. Dylan, who is now 8 years old, went straight to the center of concern when he asked “how long will it take to heal?” Clearly he knew that Grandma might not be able to fix herself, but that she would heal and that it would take time. But how much time before she was back to normal and could again hammer without hesitation? “How long O God, how long?” asks the 8 year old psalmist.
And so, Nana who does not fix things, but who thinks about things, has been meditating on this experience in our family. I too have been wondering about fractured fingers and an undefined length of healing time. What struck me most about this situation is Dylan’s confidence that healing does happen. Neither he, nor we, knew the when or really the how of the healing but he was confident that healing would happen. After all, Grandma fixes everything so Grandma, at some time in the future, would be fixed herself.
Fracturing happens all the time. We fracture our digits and our limbs. We fracture our families. We fracture our close relationships. Our churches fracture apart even when the prayer tattooed on our foreheads is “that they may all be one.” For everything that is at one time whole, there is a good possibility of fracturing, and a good possibility of healing.
As a Nana and a Christian minister I trust deeply that fractures can be healed and made whole. My faith is built on a God whose calling was and is, to bring together what has been sundered. I remember clearly a sermon that my minister preached close to 20 years ago. Reverend Victoria Safford spoke about the way that a cup (and I imagined it to be a fine bone china tea cup) a cup can so easily shatter when it is even gently knocked about. But the cup, she said, could be mended and the places where it was mended would be stronger. By extension, she was saying that by going through the process of allowing ourselves to be mended we may grow stronger. I am not saying that fracturing is a good thing, but that it is a common thing and a thing that has hope attached to it. We may be less perfect, and even less beautiful, but not less functional. Healing can take a long time but if a finger, a person, a community, or a church, is willing to submit to the grace and the work of reconciliation, a fracture can become a solid, functional and even stronger creation.
How long God, how long? Thanks be to God.