You have to admit that scabs are rather gnarly, not pretty to look at or think about. But I’ll bet there are few people who have not sported hard, crusty scabs of one kind or another.
The role and function of scabs are part of a greater, complex process of healing. While I am no dermatologist, I have witnessed enough cuts and scrapes to observe some of the basic aspects of that process.
First is the wound, — ouch! — and any blood as I examine the site to determine the extent of damage. Then come cleansing, disinfecting, and protecting the injured area. Perhaps some pain continues for a time. Otherwise, the healing then goes under cover of a scab; underground, so to speak, like a subway traveling under land or water.
Though you can’t see it for while, something remarkable is happening!
Slowly, miraculously, new cells are being created under the temporary protective cover of the infamous scab. Different layers of skin are reconstructing the integrity of that most remarkable, flexible organ covering the entire body. Eventually, new tissue grows together until the moment comes when the new skin is ready to emerge and the scab sloughs off, revealing a differently colored addition to your epidermis — a scar.
Like most kids, you may get impatient and pick at the scab, thus delaying or compounding the process. But either way, in the end you have new skin — that often looks and feels a bit different. The affected area may turn blue in the cold, or not have the same feeling or sensitivity, but otherwise, scarred skin usually works well enough.
I think scabs and scars are not just on skin. They are on minds, hearts and souls, too.
Few people have not had their minds scraped, hearts broken or souls wounded. Most know of the mental, emotional or spiritual bleeding that occurs in reaction to personal damage. These types of inner injuries also need to be cleansed, disinfected and protected from further harm or complication.
The deep interior suffering may continue. And a not-pretty protective scab of sorts likely forms for a time over your aching feelings, ideas, and hopes. During those days or weeks, you may not be very good company as you retreat and protect the hurt.
And then, with the right tincture of time, a good dose of grace and comfort, and perhaps some gentle massages of compassion and empathy, eventually those sore inner parts emerge from suffering with new vitality and function.
If you don’t rush the healing and pick at the secret scabs, something fresh is revealed. A scarred-but-functional sense of who you are, whose you are and how to do things, revealed like that fresh new place on your rawhide.
Allowed to do their protective work, scabs protect wounded places until they are sufficiently pieced back together and operational again. Scars may be ugly, but they remind us amazing healing has happened.
The Maker and Repairer of all things broken is pretty ingenious, wouldn’t you say?
Timothy J. Ledbetter, DMin, is a board-certified chaplain who helps persons in crisis effectively cope and find their hope in hospital and hospice settings.