“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken my off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30;5 b; 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, betrayed 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 queried, “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). 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.
Moving from wounded soul to wounded healer takes hard work. In his foreword to John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping, Henry Cloud quotes a psychologist who reports that his long-time patient Maddie “still has no interest in having an interior life.” This dilemma faces many Christians. We say we want to grow, we say we want to be healed from 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.” God is the great Alchemist. God can create light out of darkness – but only if we cooperate.
PRAYER: Lord, I want to be a wounded healer, not just a wounded person. Please heal my brokenness.