While cooking lunch this spring, a colleague’s gas stove had a mini-explosion and she experienced second degree burns. Watching the process of treating physical burns had me wondering if similar lessons could be applied to less-literal, though not less-damaging burns.

Because we live in Eden Lost, we know what it’s like to be burnt by one another (and sadly how to use our words and actions to burn others).  We can experience first, second and third degree relational burns.

Want to know how creative we have gotten at burning one another? Here is a short list of burn victims:

  • Esau – burnt by his brother and mother
  • Jacob—burnt by his father-in-law
  • Blind man – by gossip (was it his sin or his parents’)
  • David – burnt by Saul … again and again
  • Uriah – burned by his commander-in-chief, David
  • Moses—burnt by those he was leading
  • Naomi –burnt by life’s experiences (famine, relocating, death of loved ones and desires)
  • Tamar—burnt by her brother
  • Jesus—burnt by a kiss from a friend (and really, us all!)
  • Elijah—burnt by exhaustion
  • Mary—burnt by words said against her son
  • Mary and Martha—burnt by the delayed response of Jesus
  • Jeremiah—burnt by people’s non-responsiveness
  • Joseph—burnt by his brothers, later his employer’s wife, and later still by someone who forgot him
  • Jonah—burnt by perceived unfairness of God

Burnt by family, the government, leaders, friends, strangers, those we are to serve, life experiences, gossip, even at times it seems by God. This is most definitely not an exhaustive list and as you read this, you could add your own name and way of being burnt to it.

Among those listed, we know that not all healed from their injuries. Healing, sadly, is not a given. However, there are –I want to avoid over simplifying the process – actions that we can borrow from treating a physical burn and apply them to emotional and relational burns.

  1. Admit you’ve been burnt. This seems too obvious to state, but if you don’t admit that something has happened, you will live with this wound, that though others may not see, they will know something has happened to you.
  2. Get help – at times this will involve professionals. If you’ve gotten a second or third degree burn you are probably going to need expertise beyond your mom, school nurse, or good friend.
  3. Your wound will need to be cleaned out and this may involve scraping off dead skin. If you don’t scrap, you run the risk of infection that could spread beyond the original area wounded.
  4. It will hurt to clean and re-bandage the wounds, but you will need to do this on a regular basis until healing occurs.
  5. Monitor for signs of infection and be faithful in taking antibiotics.
  6. Lean hard into community. Let them cook for you, carry you, and spend time with you. Do not feel that you need to reach out to them at that time.
  7. The process might take a lot more time than you would choose. I’m sorry.
  8. As you do one through seven, pray. In the Psalms David models howling out to God in the midst of life’s trials while weaving in God’s faithfulness and David’s dependence on God. You can do likewise.

Physical burns need to be treated immediately, the main change I’d make to relational burns is that the timing of treating it probably will start later and go longer.

I don’t want to minimize the real pain and loss that burning causes, whether by the sun, by cooking, or by the hands of another. But God has not abandoned us in Eden lost and you can heal and out of your experience, minister to others in their time of need. {And if you’ve burnt someone, it is never too late to confess and repent.}

Question: what’s helped you heal from a relational burn?

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