A friend once told me that we heal in layers. I wish I could remember who told me this. I want to thank them for giving me a metaphor to hold onto, one that has helped me process and move through many difficult times over the last several years. It is so simple, yet I find I have to remind myself of this concept every time I am faced with the need for healing in my life. Maybe because I am, in many ways, a linear person. I like to imagine things moving in a particular direction, preferably forward and in a relatively straight manner. I want to see progress. I want to know that I am moving toward the goal, whatever it might be and whenever I might reach it. I want to feel as though I am further along today than I was yesterday or last week.

But the process of grieving and healing is not like that. Not even a little. In fact, it doesn't really feel much like a process at all. More like a muddled mess of emotions and thoughts. More like falling backward, straining forward, and going nowhere all at the same time. At least that's how it seems until I wrap my mind around these four words: We heal in layers.

I used to think about this in terms of the long haul—this life-long journey of being refined into the image of my Savior. As I've mentioned before, it is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day reality of this growing business, feeling as though I will never be the person I was created to be, wondering why God hasn't thrown up His hands in exasperation at the slowness and the mess of my progress. How often it seems I am struggling with the same imperfections, fighting the same battles, facing the same fears, learning the same lessons over and over again. But when I am tempted to give up, I find much hope in knowing that I am healing, growing, and changing in layers. It is rarely a once-for-all victory. Little by little, each time I face the same giants, I become just a little stronger, just a little more humble, just a little more like Christ. And layer by painstaking layer, the woman I was born to be is slowly being unearthed.

Over the last few weeks, I have been frustrated, discouraged, and, yes, rather angry with the so-called grieving process in which I find myself. Much of the time, it feels as if God is playing some kind of cruel game of bait-and-switch. He points out something that needs to be processed, worked through, and overcome—and I throw myself headlong into it, wrestling, feeling, thinking, giving every ounce of strength. Only to find in the end that what I labored so hard to resolve is no longer relevant; it has merely revealed something completely different that must be dealt with. And so the story goes, over and over again. I feel defeated, outmatched by a God who is constantly changing what He wants from me. After seven awful months, it seems as though I am no closer to healing than when I began.

But then I remember: We heal in layers.

And finally I understand. These four words hold an even greater power than I realized. It seems to me that when we suffer a deep wound—death of a loved one, loss of relationship, betrayal, stolen dreams, and the like—our heart, the center of our being, becomes surrounded by layer upon layer of brokenness. And as much as I would like to jump straight to the center and heal what lies at the root of all this brokenness, I am beginning to understand that it doesn't work that way. I must start at the outside and work my way in, one layer at a time. In my linear mindset, I expect this process to get easier, less messy, more understandable with each step I take. I expect it to look and feel as though I am making progress. In reality, each layer I tackle brings me closer to the deepest part of my wound. Each layer intensifies the hurt, the anger, the loss, the confusion. And though I am moving forward, it feels as if I am going backward. I am more hurt, not less. I am more angry, not less. I feel the loss more deeply, not less. I have more questions without answers, not less.

But now I understand. I am healing in layers. And after seven awful months, I am closer to healing than when I began. I am hurt, I am angry, I am lost, and I am tired. But layer by painstaking layer, I am healing.


  1. The best thing about being God's child is being in His eternal plan. The moments we live now, the hurts we feel now, are layers that will be burned away and what will be left is beauty.


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