(aka Woundedness and Wounded Healers)
“The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is nothing sound in it,only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil.” –Isaiah 1:5-6
Ever have one of those moments when you realize that you’re a hot mess? That you still carry around that little child inside who had been rejected, hurt, misunderstood, and lonely. That there is this ache, this silent scream inside of you constantly threatening to find its voice and tear itself from within you. That you are lost in a sea of deep pain, wondering where God, your friends, or your family are, the very pain itself ripping open old wounds you thought healed. And you’re just tired. Tired of fighting, worn out by the struggle to do better, losing hope that you’ll ever find wholeness or the light.
Feeling broken, beyond repair, as if something is fundamentally wrong with you and you don’t know if you’ll ever be fixed. Afraid to be around others for fear of saddling them with all of your baggage; or worse, letting your disgust and anger with yourself pour out over them. You’re not where you wish to be, realizing the clash between what you believe and say you are about versus how you are living. Your life and circumstances not playing out the way you had imagined.
So brought low by your sin or how life has played out—shattered and convinced every eye was on you, could see you for what you did—you do what many people do when they are hurting and withdraw to your cave. There you are free to bleed all over the place, lick your own wounds, focusing on your pain, not realizing that you’re too hurt to reach out.* But the spiral continues as you barely eat or sleep, assuming sleep finds you at all. You quit taking care of yourself. You may not even be able to assess how hurt you are as you process the fresh memories and fresh pain. Or pride may keep you from admitting how hurt, vulnerable, or in need you are. Admitting weakness is scary, especially to males.
And you are running out of reasons to get out of bed each morning. But you go through the motions of living, dragging yourself through the routine, smiling on the outside, withering on the vine on the inside.
Suffering in silence.
It makes you wonder about the true horror of the cross of Jesus: that God abandoned Jesus. And yet … there’s also hope in that. We can know that both God and Jesus understand what it is to be forsaken and alone. In his humanity, He suffered and knew helplessness. He understands it.
It’s funny how so many people come to know Christ through times of need and pain. Men who were blind or lame or leprous or whose family was sick. It’s like Jesus is found in brokenness. As if he’s revealed to us in weakness rather than in strength or in our sinfulness and doubt rather than our perfect purity and faithfulness. It’s as if in those times He becomes fully real to us. It’s the broken Jesus, the one who knew what it meant to be forsaken, we can approach. He invites us to connect with him there.
And our handicaps remind us of our own weakness. In our own brokenness–all the things which make us feel dirty and unusable, all the things that make us feel ugly and disqualified from any sort of relationship with Him–is exactly where He desires to meet us. Along with these broken bodies we need to seek treatment, not wallow in our misery and hopelessness. And you’re not alone as you may think as in His mercy, His healing hands and presence is felt when fellow wounded healers find you.
I like the idea of wounded healers. The thing about wounded healers, is that they understand the pain so intimately. They know what to ask and they know when the “pain meds” aren’t working. They are living reminders to not let the past define you, but to always be working toward who you were meant to be. And there is hope of becoming whole. We’re all wounded healers, broken or rather, incomplete. Most people are selfish, so busy thinking of themselves they couldn’t think of another, but we are not sent to be served but to serve. In the midst of pain, agony, and infection, we are to encourage one another as a fellow patient and in so doing become part of the healing. When our spirits are wounded, we speak words of resurrection. We offer new hope and new life. We invite one another to live a new kind of life, one where we are continually surrounded by Jesus’ transforming love.
In the book, The Spiritual Legacy of Henri Nouwen, author Deirdre LaNoue says:
Nouwen gave several concrete principles on how to care. The most prominent in his writing goes back to the idea of being present. Nouwen believed that caring means, first of all, to be present with each other, ‘offering one’s own vulnerable self to others as a source of healing.’ One does not need to be useful as much as to be present. To be present is to listen and to identify with each other as mortal, fragile human beings who need to be heard and sustained by one another, not distracted or entertained. Nouwen’s most powerful expression of this idea is found in Here and Now. (pp. 129-130)
Though you might fall down but you have to get back up. Because it’s not the end, God’s not through with you yet, and it matters how you finish.
*Ironically, leaving bewildered friends and family going “all you had to do was ask”. Or they misread the signals as you pushing them away. Or they otherwise pull away because they don’t know what to say nor want to say the wrong thing. After all, it wasn’t until Job’s friends started running their mouths that they got into trouble.