Does Time Heal All Wounds?

Does time really heal all wounds? After recently celebrating their respective 70th birthdays, Dan and Becky Allender sat down to look back over the decades with a different awareness, considering the trauma, the joy, the losses, and the blessings. They also explore the saying that “time heals all wounds” and explain why trauma does not honor time. The good news is that, instead of hoping that the passage of time will allow us to heal, we can step in and own our stories and begin to experience the redemption and restoration that God has for us. 

Episode Transcript:

Dan: One of my great privileges with this podcast is occasionally having my beloved wife joining me. Becky, it’s so good to have you on the podcast.

Becky: It’s great to be on the podcast with you.

Dan: Well, let’s give a context as to how this particular podcast came to be. First of all, we were in California today. We’re now in Seattle, but what happened?

Becky: What happened? You took me on a surprise trip. You’ve told me for the last 12 months that I would have a surprise sometime during this calendar year for my birthday.

Dan: Yeah, and we’ve done this before. Let’s just say the 50th was an extravagance, a meeting of three dear friends you used to travel with in Europe. And we replicated a portion of this trip you took after you graduated from college. So you ended up in Europe with friends. Didn’t know I was gonna surprise you. It was really one of my, I think, one of the great feats of my life to be able to pull this off. You told me, that you didn’t want anything at age 60, but, and I honored that. Did I? Not you?

Becky: Yes, you did honor that.

Dan: And but 70, as we just recently passed, became the context where at least put words to what you experienced.

Becky: Well, a context of I would be frantically surprised, and not know where I was going. I was not frantically surprised because we did have to pack and you did tell me to put in a swimming suit and that was about it. So I actually thought we were going to a different continent.

Dan: Well, I did. I did say make sure you take passports, but there was a lot of disinformation, a kind of misdirection. It was just, I love deceiving you. I mean, it was just, it was so fun to do the work. And then what happened?

Becky: Well, this was mostly, disappointing to you more than me, ’cause I didn’t know about it. But we were gonna go here, Judy Collins, which is one of my very favorite, um, singers of throughout my lifetime with our granddaughter, daughter, and you and me. And we pulled up to the venue and gave them our little tickets so we could park. And then you tell this park cause you were in the front seat.

Dan: Well, I pulled up and, you know, the person handling the entry into this parking lot said, What are you here for? And I didn’t want to say that we’re here for the Judy Collins concert. So I just said, We’re here for the concert. And he looked at me with this pathetic look like, Oh boy. And then he said, I’m so sorry the concert’s been canceled ’cause Judy broke her arm and now couldn’t play. Now that was, I was really angry, hurt, confused. You were just absolutely mature.

Becky: I was fine. Well, she’s 83 years old, so goodness. That’s that’s a big deal to break an arm.

Dan: Well, it is, and I forgive her at some level, but, the fact is that it set the context for what we’re addressing today. Now, another part of this story is we do take from listeners questions, that like focused on what do you want us to engage? And apparently this question has come up quite regularly. Does time heal all wounds? And that’s what we’re gonna engage. Now, obviously, the wound having a event that I have planned for literally six to eight months involving our children, involving friendships, involving all sorts of details with the work. Yeah, it didn’t seem to affect you as deeply as it affected and effects me. I don’t think that fits frankly, into much of the category of wound. But in addressing this question, it opens up a lot of reflection on an old aphorism, or an aphorism is another word for the word proverb. And so we have a proverb, uh, a proverb that we know shows up probably as early as 300 BC in some of the writings of a Greek dramatist playwright by the name of Menander. And it, he brought in this whole category that time is the healer of all, and the phrase was all necessary evils. We don’t really see that phrase show up much more until about the 14 hundreds with Geoffrey Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde. And as he put it, as time has brought heartache, time, also brings cure. So we’ve got a statement that bears a kind of truth, but also I think we also know inherently a certain degree in which it’s just just not true. So again, the question of how do you, how do you find it to be true, particularly in dealing with the disappointment of your husband’s disappointment?

Becky: Well that was a very recent one, so we haven’t had too much time for you to heal that wound.

Dan: No. And again, I wanna underscore, it’s not a particularly severe wound, but it is one of those paper cuts that I’m still, I’m just ticked.

Becky: Well, I’m okay. I’m alright. I give her grace. Yeah. So how about you? What are some wounds that have not been healed by time?

Dan: Oh, I, you know, again, let’s, let’s think of in terms of first of all, like where have you seen goodness through the process of time? Because I do think there is a truth to this. We can’t just immediately say it’s not true. There is a certain truth to it that I think we can begin to at least put a few words to.

Becky: Yeah. Oh, definitely. I think we have quite a few events in our lifetime now that we’re 70 that we can look back upon. And at the time of, say we had a daughter who was arrested. At that time, it was devastating. It was so disruptive, so horrific. And we got through the next day. We got through the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year. And now looking back, I’m, you know, there was such goodness that came from this, not only for her, but for myself and our family. So I would say definitely that is a category of time has healed that wound for sure.

Dan: Well, and we were visiting with her and her family in California and that particular event came up and one of the questions her husband asked at a dinner was, “How have you seen Amanda change?” And what went to both of our minds was the reality of when she was in a high school, she had alcohol in the back of her car at a school event, which in the state of Washington is kind of a, like a fatal mortal crime. And it just opened up chaos for us in terms of a sense of shame.

Becky: Oh, so much shame. Yes. We had new neighbors and I wanted to keep the blinds down on that side of the house because I didn’t want, her to see that Amanda was not in school for, cause she had a suspension that she had to honor. So it was, you know, Oh yeah, pretenses.

Dan: Well and even as we talk about it, I can see in your face, there is a sense in which it is a scar. It isn’t a wound in the typical sense of how we would use that word, but it, it is a loss. A frustration, a heartache. Yet the conversation prompted by her husband Jeff, was how did, did we see her change? And there were things that came as a result of, of the consequences. The humiliation. Literally we had to pick her up in our community’s jail. And that experience alone was overwhelming and heartbreaking. All that to say, perspective is often only gained as in some ways years pass. And you’re able to look back and at one level, see, not always, I don’t want to underscore this, not always, but many times we see a kind of goodness that comes, not perhaps in the event itself, but in the byproduct of what ensues. So I think that’s an important factor for looking at, you know, time heals all wounds. Well, it does give perspective and in some ways it allows you to see certain events that are huge at the moment, but over significant periods of time, it just doesn’t hold the same level of power.

Becky: There is a fading, I think we’ve talked about on this in the podcast about evolutionary terms. The cultural anthropologists would say that we normally think of the worst case scenario ’cause that helps us to actually survive. So we’re pretty pessimistic in the moment, but then as we age, we do have this nostalgia that seems to enter into our thinking because again, because of the perspective of distance and time that we kind of let the, the bad things, roll off and we remember the good things.

Dan: Well, and it, that nostalgia is, I think in terms of it allows us to let certain jagged memories get smooth, at least to a point where it’s not essentially cutting you each and every time you, you think about it. But I think as 70 year olds, what also has to be said is time, as you age particularly somewhat dims your memory. I mean, I’m not remembering all that we did even this morning to get back to Seattle, let alone what occurred five years ago when I know certain sad and difficult things happened in our world. The fact is, I’d almost have to be prompted and work to be able to get those memories back.

Becky: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, that we just, like when you’re young, you just live, you live and you look forward to things. And then you have, you know, I think it’s, whenever I’m with any of our children and our grandchildren, I’m constantly reminded oh, of what I did as a mother and what my mother and father saw in me as a mother. And so you’re, you’re, it elongates every setting and, and some respects I’ve got my childhood, I’ve got my life as well as my parents’ life, my grandparents’ life. You’re thinking at a much more depth than I ever remember doing, as you know, in college.

Dan: Yeah. And again, what research indicates is that novelty creates a greater sense of intensity of experience. That as you age,  as we know, there are plenty of novel things, but not like the first child, not like the first child going to college, et cetera. And so aging at least has some of the benefit. I’m not talking about dementia, that is a heartbreaking illness, but I’m talking about the fact that you’re not able to keep in your mind all the particularity that you did when you were younger. And there is something really beneficent about that, that allows you in many ways to look like you’re skirting over avoiding. But in fact, there is a sense in which you are able to move through some of the heartache of the past and sometimes the heartache of the present with a bit different sense than what we would’ve had, I think when we were in our twenties or thirties or even the so-called generation of that middle sandwich area in the forties and the fifties as you’re dealing with both your parents, but also your children growing up and becoming more independent.

Becky: Yeah, I think there’s some buoyancy that comes as we age. It’s a depth that because you’ve lived life, you’ve lived through so many decades that, there is, I don’t know, a bit of more connection to higher thought as well as, oh, this is, yeah, I’ve done this before. I can do this. And oh, you know, it is kind of tedious sometimes, but then there’s that, you know, chop the wood, carry the wood, you know, chop the logs. So that idea of that is part of life. Repetition is a sacred part of life, and to look at it that way is, is healthy.

Dan: So I think what we’ve attempted to choose to say, Look, that particular aphorism doesn’t come from nowhere. There is truth to it. I think where we probably pull back would be the word all that time heals all wounds. I think we can say time does not heal wounds that come particularly from what we would refer to as trauma. Those events which disrupt at core are sense of stability and normative life as it could and should be. And then when we experience a degree of powerlessness, so that disruption that leaves us powerless and eventually brings a kind of shame and isolation. So if we’re thinking about trauma, we know without question, trauma is not healed by so-called weeks, months, years, decades. It remains in the body, it remains in the brain, and it certainly remains in the way we engage others, but also how we engage even our own body and our own lives.

Becky: Yes. Yeah. When we think of traumatizing events in our marriage, in our childbearing years, Yeah. That, that stays with us in a deeper way than, you know, something that turned out to be great. You know? So I think that those have honored places in our hearts and minds that we share as a couple. And yeah.

Dan: Well, if we can go back and to say, you know, the experience of significant loss of life with miscarriages. We’ve talked about that in podcasts many moons ago, particularly with Jeanette and Campbell White, and that process of owning some of the significant wounds that we’ve endured, we’ve engaged it, but there’s still, every time I hear someone, a friend, someone on staff going through a miscarriage, it it’s like, it is an inevitable trigger that brings me back pretty solidly to some of the experiences that I didn’t handle well when you were going through miscarriages, and I think that’s somewhat true for you.

Becky: Yes. Well, you’ve had different surgeries and things that I didn’t handle as well then because there’s things that have to be done as a caregiver when with children. And so yeah, we have so many times we have failed one another in deep ways and we’ve come back together and talked and I feel like we’ve done well to heal from those divisions.

Dan: But important to hear it’s not time. It may occur obviously in the context of time, but the reality is trauma requires an engagement that’s different than the smoothing of the stones that were jagged once and then become softer because you get perspective or you get a sense of, I’ve seen good come or even just the dimming of some degree of memory. So when we begin to talk about trauma, we’ve said this before, but let’s say it again. When you’re in trauma, time changes. And often people who work as we do with trauma will use the phrase, “You are frozen in time.” And there is literally a sense in which there is a kind of, you’re moving and then all of a sudden something happens that is deeply traumatic. And from that moment on, it has a degree to which it is frozen in your own body and your brain. Now, not to go into significant detail, but to say that the doso, lateral prefrontal cortex, and the medial lateral prefrontal cortex are the places where our ability to hold time and context when we’re in trauma, those particular portions of our brain literally go offline. We know that the thalmus, which is the integrative portion of our brain that brings together sensations, feelings, thoughts, actions, really, it’s where something of the beginning, middle, and end of a story are held together. It goes offline and particularly the prefrontal cortex, in our area called the Broca’s area, goes offline where we manage language. So listen to that again, where we manage language, where we manage the integration of our inner experience and where we manage time all go offline to a significant degree when we’re in the middle of trauma, Which if you add all that up means it stays as kind of what Nietzche used to refer to as the eternal return of the now. A kind of, I can’t get out of it, I can’t get out of this experience. I mean, in a more typical sense of what we would call, we’d call that Groundhog Day. Like every morning we wake up at 6:30 and the same song comes on and the day is, but a repetition. And that’s the sense of what time will not cure. Time will not cure frozen time. There has to be something that we begin to engage differently in order to open up something of that.

Becky: Yeah. And I love this in, Lamentations, because of it’s Lamentations, Which one am I at here? I gotta turn the page to see where 3:22, “because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him.” I think time is of course repetitious every morning. And I think we both embrace that about new mercies every morning. And whether we just hear about even the body, we are, we have new cells that we wake up with, which is a newness that I think is even in our body as it speaks in the Bible. There’s, there’s new hope, there’s new mercies. And just to even take that in to say that, to believe that to act on it, I think is just a good practice.

Dan: Well, it opens up the possibility of being able to hear that literally sleep provides neural connections that are fresh. And I think so often we don’t really utilize the morning in a way that that particular, portion from Lamentations 3 brings. And that is we often get up, get breakfast, do whatever we need to do to get ready for the day, and then email, phone calls, and then we’re off to a commute if we’re still commuting. And by that point, the day has no freshening. And the idea that well wait a minute, the morning is one of the best times to engage what Lamentations has invited us to. At one level, what comes before in Lamentations 3 is massive heartache. Question struggle with God given the question, is God faithful? Is he strong? Is he good? And there is something of a turn in that passage that you brought and it does begin to open up the question of how do we use the mourn not just for our quiet time, but to actually engage, our heartache, in a way in which we’re not trying to magically make blessing come, but we know that there is a kind of freshness neurologically, at least, to open up the possibility of can we engage what is yet healed, particularly at a time where we are open, more open than we would be midday end of the day, et cetera. So I think that becomes almost, again, that framework of, the mercies of God are new every morning. Can we engage mercy in the midst of asking and dealing with those hard unresolved issues?

Becky: And I think as a younger person, I didn’t quite get that as much ’cause I would wake up and just hit the ground running. And I think the goodness of our age is being able to put into practice time in the morning, and to not ruminate and worry about something that’s gonna happen at two o’clock. We to begin with our bodies, our hearts and minds and souls and speak goodness, to Jesus and praise for his creation and make that our focus. And then to get on with the day.

Dan: Well I think that it, you brought up at least in a conversation, I don’t know how many months ago, but the Matthew 6:27 passage, can you by worrying at a single hour to your life, that that was really one of those moments of just stepping back and going, Well wait a minute, we need to deal with time, but not in the framework of a kind of leaning into the future with a commitment to try and resolve whatever uncertainty we’re in the middle of that. What I’ve said in other context is the only portion of time that we really do have some level of control over is our past. Obviously, I don’t mean you can change the particularity or sequence or the events of your past, but as simple and easily dismissed of a phrase, we can change the meaning of the past. I mean, you see that most clearly in Joseph when he says to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, God meant it for good.” That’s not a resolve of the problem. It’s an invitation to see meaning has a potential over time, I’ll say in engagement in the morning to actually be transformed. And in that you do have a sense in which life doesn’t hold the same level of heartache. Oh, the heartache is never resolvable, but something of its place within your body, particularly your brain, has a chance to become unpro.

Becky: Yeah. I just think that in the beginning of that verse, “therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food in the body, more important than clothes.” And I do think we have really tried to claim this morning, our mornings together and we just watch creation and praise God for the beauty if we hear a owl in the morning and then another owl, you know, becking back to him. It’s just, I go and make our whole day, we’ll say that to each other throughout the day. Do you remember that owl? And so just the smallest things can become just the biggest things of being a part of purposes that God has given us.

Dan: Yeah. So in some ways, what I think we’re putting words to is if we’re going to see in time, not just through time, but in time, significant change with regard to trauma, it, it’s going to come because of some break on worry. Again, I don’t think we can ever say, we’ll stop it, but what I’d love to be able to invite at least us, and hopefully those you the listening, like maybe you could slow it down just to become more and more aware. I can’t add a single minute to my life by worry. What else can’t I resolve? And if we begin with a kind of more conscious commitment, how do we make use of the potential of that neural opening, the blessing to be able to start our day engaging? And I think what we’ve found, for example, is that we’ve got current wounds and struggles. We’ve got things that rise because of triggers in the present, but open the door to the past. And we’ve got things just from the past that we just know the moment we turn our face toward it, there will be the need for, for far greater healing. All of that requires some level of engagement that God basically opens the possibility of time being changed by an engagement with the particularity matters that we’ve already put words to quite often, we need to go back to the past.

Becky: And this is what you do love to do, especially on January mornings of walking and, and it’s gone on every year since we’ve been married. You know, you’ll usually like sum up the year with 25 events and then the next year you’ll have like 20 to add on to the 25. So we actually keep track of a lot of our traumas and our joys, you know, it’s just, it’s part of who you are to call forth and remember, and I know you like order and numbers and so it works and it’s, it’s a valuable use of time. Sometimes laborious, but not but usually because sometimes you can look on the bad side, but we’re getting better at seeing the goodness of God.

Dan: Yeah. Well, I just have to, Well, I did laugh. Yeah. You have said to me a number of times because yeah, it happens toward the end of the year, but I’d also say it happens about every month to be able to, as a month ends, to be able to go, well, what’s happened? What has been delicious and sweet, what has been dark and bitter and holding that process in being able to walk through it. Our children will often say to their children, you know, tell us about the sweet part of your day. Tell us about the difficult or bitter part of your day. And just that invitation to name already is engaging the potential of a memory, even a minor one being frozen. So in thawing there has to be a heat. And the heat, uh, will in some ways create a certain degree of uncomfortability, which is why I think for most people it’s easier just to get on because we’ve got so much going on today, so much tomorrow, why should we linger on what happened yesterday? And that process is what we’re trying to disrupt by saying, yes, you know, time heals some wounds, but it will never heal the deepest and most significant wounds in your marriage, in your past with regard to trauma, abuse and other deeper levels of heartache. Can we create a context where as a couple or as a person, we begin to thaw those memories by writing.

Becky: And not just writing, but talking too. I think it memorializes our lives are the events. I think we just, it deepens our closeness because we lived that together, or you lived it, or I lived it, and then we talk about it. So I think this,  repetition and this re remembering is just such a significant part of being human.

Dan: And as we end just to say, one of the benefits of aging, uh, is your near death. I get your laughter.

Becky: Yeah, I know. I need to think about it more.

Dan: The reality is, and, I’d invite you to a much longer look at Psalm 90, but in one sense, one of the summary verses in that is “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Such an important intersection. But we often talk about wisdom coming from the fear of the Lord. And indeed it does. But in this case, it, it’s numbering your days knowing, and we’ve said this, we are in the dying age. Uh, we have had dear friends pass from this earth. We don’t know when any of us, will come to meet Jesus face to face. But we do know this, if you look at actuarial tables, we are a lot closer to death than we were 10 or 20 years ago. And I think as we’ve done our morning walks, the phrase has come at least a number of times, may we use, may we use the remainder of our days well with our children, with our grandchildren, with our friends, with the calling that we have been given in and through the Allender Center. And I think in that sense, you kind of know, we don’t have decades ahead, We have years. And in that, in counting the days, you’re allowing yourself to own far more the reality of death. And again, I don’t know what I would’ve heard if I were hearing this as a 20 or 30 year old.

Becky: I know, I can’t imagine that would’ve been so different. But I do love, teach us to number our days. I love I write that on birthday cards because it, it’s a very holy thing to be a human being. And we have lots of very hallowed, thoughts and hopes and hopefully years ahead.

Dan: Yeah. At least we have to live long enough to get you to a Judy Collins concert. And, and if not, maybe I checked online, she lives somewhere in Connecticut, will just go stalk her and knock on her door and just say, I hope your arms far better, but could you just sing one song for my wife?

Becky: I think you need that more than me.

Dan: I think so. I think that’s true. So what we’re hoping, as we end, is don’t, don’t toss out this phrase, time heals a lot of wounds, but don’t let your heart be captured by the escape that only time itself will be the healing force. Your integrity to step into your story and to own, and to honor and to limit worry, uh, and extraneous matters will unquestionably open up the reality as Psalm 147 verse three says, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. And may we, in all forms and in always participate and the great joy God has in healing.

Becky: Amen.