When I was about 10 years old, I was playing with a group of neighborhood kids one summer afternoon when Billy did something I didn’t really appreciate. I have no memory of his sin against me, but I surely do remember my sin against him. I...
When I was about 10 years old, I was playing with a group of neighborhood kids one summer afternoon when Billy did something I didn’t really appreciate. I have no memory of his sin against me, but I surely do remember my sin against him. I whipped a heavy rope at him which left a large red welt on his cheek. He ran home in tears. Somehow my mother learned of the incident and angrily called me home. She met me on the front steps and said that I couldn’t come in the house until I apologized to Billy.
I said that I couldn’t apologize because I wasn’t sorry; he deserved it! Of course that made her even angrier. She went inside and locked the door. Now, my mother and I had many battles of will before then (and many after), so she should have anticipated what would happen. I stayed on the front porch until dark (about 4 hours), until she finally let me in. I never did apologize.
Forgiveness was not part of my lifestyle as a child. Actually it was not part of my family’s life style. And, I am chagrined to admit, it has only been in the last half of my life that I have really begun to understand and practice the discipline of forgiveness.
Richard Rohr says, “God fully forgives us, but the ‘karma’ of our mistakes remains, and we must still go back and repair the bonds that we have broken. Otherwise others will not be able to forgive us, will remain stuck, and we will both remain a wounded world. . . . Our family, friends and enemies are not as kind or patient as God. They need a clear accounting to be free and go ahead with their lives.” (Adapted from Eucharist as Touchstone, CD, MP3 download). This was surely true for Billy and me; we never did play together or even speak to each other again.
Rohr continues: “Nothing just goes away in the spiritual world; all must be reconciled and accounted for. All healers are wounded healers, as Henri Nouwen said so well. There is no other kind. In fact, you are often most gifted to heal others precisely where you yourselves were wounded, or wounded others . . . . You learn to salve the wounds of others by knowing and remembering how much it hurts to hurt” (Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, p. 69).
So all healers are wounded, but not all those who are wounded are healers. Healing is something God orchestrates, but we must join the orchestra. Emotional healing does not happen by osmosis, it is an intentional step forward. It requires a shift in thinking and a willingness to forgive. If Christians want to remain stuck in their woundedness, they will harm rather than help others.
My own journey with forgiveness began when a counselor told me that I had to forgive my mother for our life-long bitter and unloving relationship or my anger would destroy me. I did not want to forgive my mother. But I learned that my wants and feelings had nothing to do with forgiving. One day I sat on my bed and berated God. “If you want me to forgive her, you’ll have to do it.” Little did I understand how theologically correct my ultimatum was. I had to be willing, but God had to do the work. My process of becoming a wounded healer, instead of a wounded daughter, was beginning.
My relationship with my mother did not change. It was toxic; I needed to stay away. But gradually my anger dribbled away. Many years later, my mother struggled with several health issues. My sister was the only one of five siblings who lived near enough to help. After a few years of being totally responsible for mother’s care, she was physically and emotionally exhausted. God nudged me, and I knew I was being called to go home and help. God worked out all the details of the move – a job transfer, a way to handle housing, the change of heart my husband had about moving. And so we moved.
I helped where I could. And gradually as mother slid away into dementia I learned to leave the past behind and act in a loving way. And then, one day, I was with my mother in her living room as I had been hundreds of times before, listening to her complaints as I had hundreds of time before. She asked me a question, and I turned to look at her. And suddenly I saw a lonely and fearful elderly woman, small, bent over, and suffering immense emotional pain – as she had for dozens of years. I felt forgiveness and love. What started in my bedroom twenty years earlier was completed in her living room.
The process of becoming a wounded healer is described in this beautiful passage as interpreted by Eugene Peterson in The Message:
But now take another look. I’m going to give this city a thorough renovation,
working a true healing inside and out. I’m going to show them life whole, life
brimming with blessings. I’ll restore everything that was lost to Judah and Jeru-
salem. I’ll build everything back as good as new. I’ll scrub them clean from the
dirt they’ve done against me. I’ll forgive everything they’ve done wrong, forgive
all their rebellions. And Jerusalem will be a center of joy and praise and glory
for all the countries on earth. They’ll get reports on all the good I’m doing for
her. They’ll be in awe of the blessings I am pouring on her (Jeremiah 33:5-7).
If we let him, God will renovate our hearts, working a true healing. We will be blessed, restored, scrubbed clean, and forgiven for our wrongs and rebellions. Our lives will be centers of joy and praise and glory for all around us. People will be in awe of what God is doing in us. We will become wounded healers.
MULLING IT OVER: Do know a “wounded healer?” What does that person bring to your life? Do you know a wounded person who is still drowning in the hurt and pain? What do they bring to your life? Are you are a wounded healer? Or are you one of the hurt people who hurt people? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see who you really are.
Karen Bables is a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Holland, Michigan. Recently retired from work as a Director of Spiritual Formation, she now spends her time writing. She blogs at www.livingasapprentices.com.Share on Facebook Tweet This Pin This