Tugging and Pulling
I once told my wife, who is a Physician Assistant in Dermatology, that she is going to one day save my life. In my teenage years I spent a lot of time out in the sun, so this was no embellishment. As it turns out, she did, as described below.
Recently, my wife noticed a dark and strange spot on my shoulder. Consequently, we had the odd-looking mole biopsied (a sample of tissue taken to examine it more closely). The biopsy came back as an early form of melanoma cancer. We immediately set up the surgical procedure to have it removed. The surgery went well and the recovery process began.
In the days following the surgery, there was some soreness, but nothing out of the ordinary. While the wound was healing, I felt my skin tugging and pulling. This was natural, my wife told me. Approximately ten days later, the suture was removed, and the experience of the jerking of my skin started to wane.
In those ten days, while the wound was healing, I sensed the Holy Spirit inviting me to consider an important truth to the spiritual life.
On one hand, I was made to consider the importance of tending to a “wound seen” and how applicable this was to the spiritual life. For example, if we do not tend to our self-inflicted wounds (sin) that we “see” in the Sacrament of Confession, then they may ravage our soul like a cancer, eating us up inside. On the other hand, however, even after we tend to our wounds, it would be a mistake to ignore them. How do we do this? By listening to our conscience.
In the spiritual life, God has given us the gift of our conscience, an interior voice that directs and guides, ultimately helping us distinguish right from wrong. The more formed our conscience is, the clearer this interior voice will help us choose wisely. A well-formed conscience has a way of tugging and pulling at our hearts to be more “firmly resolved, with the help of God’s grace, to sin less and avoid the near occasions of sin” (Act of Contrition). In other words, a well-formed conscience is a sure guide and reminder that although we may have repented of our sin, those self-inflicted wounds, we still need to be resolved to grow in virtue and avoid growing impatient as God’s grace works in our hearts to overcome sin in our lives. (Incidentally, in the span of those ten days, my suture started to get irritated and I needed antibiotics to calm it down. As it turns out, even after the melanoma was removed, the tugging and pulling of my skin had me evaluating the state of my wound). The same occurs in our spiritual life: even as we cooperate with God’s grace and healing, we have to be diligent in allowing a complete healing to occur in our hearts.
When my wife noticed the odd-looking mole on my shoulder, I had a hunch it was in fact melanoma, and what I one day joked about—her saving my life, would soon be a reality. What I did not anticipate, was in the tugging and pulling of my skin, I would be made to reconsider how the conscience, as an interior voice, tugs and pulls on my heart to make life-saving decisions.