“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give...
“Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”
Psalm 30: 5b; 11-12 (NRSV)
What does the word broken call to your mind? Plates, mirrors, and windows? Promises? A world record? Bones and fingernails and noses? Hearts, spirits – yes, even people can be broken.
How do we come to be broken? We may have been hurt, injured, or suffered loss. We may have sinned greatly and become weighed down by guilt and shame. We may have been in a relationship or situation that has shattered our illusions or betrayed our trust. A truly broken person has come to the end of himself or herself.
Richard Rohr has commented, “Would any of us even learn to love at all if it was not demanded of us, taken from us, and called forth by human tears and earthly tragedy? Is suffering necessary to teach us how to love and care for one another?” (Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, p. 123) Rohr brings an important fact of life to our attention. When everything is rolling along well in our lives, we can believe that we are in control. We know what to do. We don’t need to share our lives or steep in the wisdom of others. We feel no need to stop, look around, or attempt to make sense of anything.
But once grief or pain or betrayal or obstacles enter our lives, we are brought up short. Life is no longer fair – let alone rosy. We begin the journey of catching our breath, looking up, and trying to understand. We try to make sense of our suffering. We may drop to our knees for the first time in our lives.
The pages of the book of Psalms spill over with the cries of the hurt and broken. However, the Psalmists also teach us that joy may indeed come with the morning and through our mourning. We can recycle those experiences and become wounded healers. We can love and care for another, speaking into his or her life through our own experience.
All of us are wounded in some way, but we do not all become healers. “Hurt people hurt people” is a cliché, but it is also true. If we do not work through our suffering with the help of the Holy Spirit, we cannot be a healing presence in the church or in the world. Our helping will be tainted by our own unredeemed suffering. We will be at risk of hurting others because the fruits of our spirit will be bitterness, anger, control, frustration, fear, judgmentalism, resentment, blame, criticism, cynicism, hatred, retreat, withdrawal or flight. Those of us who have been wounded and do open our suffering to the healing love of God can be of benefit to others because love, compassion, empathy, serenity, joy, and hope will flow from our lives.
Each of us is deeply wounded not only by life’s experience but also because we carry the taint of sin. The Church is a gathering place for the wounded. But not all wounded find healing there. That is why churches can become the most vicious places on earth. And it may why the unchurched say that they will never darken the door of a church because it is filled with “hypocrites.”
Perhaps we look like hypocrites because we are still wounded. We invite those who do not know Jesus to find healing in our sanctuaries, but we don’t want to acknowledge that many of us already sitting in those sanctuaries have not allowed that Jesus to heal us. Even worse, most of us would not be willing even to consider that we were part of the wounded and unhealed.
Henri Nouwen brought awareness of the term “wounded healers” in his book of the same name. Nouwen is speaking here about professional ministers. I am enlarging that term to “Christ followers.” Nouwen says:
A minister [Christ follower] is called to recognize the sufferings . . .in his own heart and make that recognition the starting point of his service. . . . His [or her] service will not be received as authentic un-less it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which he [she] speaks” (Can You Drink the Cup?, p. 59).
Until churches believe this and make it their mission to become authentic healers, hurt people will continue to hurt people. And the suffering Wounded Healer will suffer more as he watches our unwillingness to recycle our wounds harm his Church.
Moving from wounded soul to wounded healer takes hard work. In his foreword to John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping, Caring for the Most Important Part of You, Henry Cloud quotes a psychologist who reports that his long-time patient Maddie “still has no interest in having an interior life (p. 10). This dilemma faces many Christians. We say we want to grow. We say we want to be healed of our grief or anger or fear. But we choose not to do the work of looking at our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors or beliefs. “Having an interior life” is an absolute necessity if we are to redeem our pain and suffering and recycle it for good.
Richard Rohr’s final encouragement for the healing of wounds is that “with Jesus, we find the power to hold the pain of life until it transforms us” (Breathing Under Water, p. 68). God is the great Alchemist. God can create light out of darkness – but only if we cooperate.
MULLING IT OVER: Remember an experience of conflict in your church. How much of it could have been avoided if each person participating was not just wounded but a wounded healer?
How can you offer your wounds for the healing of others?
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