We are wounded healers
This weekend, we remember 9/11, the day our world shifted. I’ve been reading stories today, of loss and remembrance and honor.
And a reminder that some days, we wake up in a world that is not a friend of grace. At least, it doesn’t feel so.
The news puts a spotlight on what we know to be true, we live in very broken world. In the conversations I have with people from different parts of the country, I know that all have been tainted with pain. (Some more than others.) And it hurts my heart when it feels like the pain wins.
A few years ago, talking with Phil Cushman in the grocery, we shook our heads about our world’s fragile nature, as if to say, “Where do we find sanity and sanctuary? And where do find hope?”
“It helps when I distinguish between big world and small world,” he said to me.
With that, a light bulb came on. You see, with big world, news is in your face and stoked with anger. No wonder we feel as if our control is demoted. And we ask, how can I ever make a difference in a broken world?
Well that’s just it, we make a difference in the small world. The small world is the place where we stand. Today. Where we care and give a damn. And hug and give and try and love and fall down and get up and repent and cry and embrace and challenge and reconcile and heal.
Jeffrey Rubin tells the story about a young man who found a wallet on the street. It belonged to a city police officer. He found the precinct and returned the wallet that he found.
The detective was grateful and surprised. “Thank you,” he said to the young man. “Here’s forty dollars.”
The young man replied, “Thanks, but if I wanted the money, I would have kept the wallet.”
Makes me smile big. Yes. Making a difference in the small world with compassion free of ulterior motive and straight from the heart. The path we walk (the choices we make), is not arbitrary, or because we mentally assent to a certain creed. It is guided by and fueled by an identity that is grounded in and spills from sufficiency, and not scarcity. Sufficiency is that place where Grace is received and given freely.
Sufficiency where we remember Jesus’ words to each of us, “You are the light of the world.” He didn’t ask us to make the light. Just shine it.
When I live from scarcity, I’ve lose my mooring. I’m driven by “not enough.” I clutch, and I blame.
When I live from sufficiency, I am not compensating for what is missing, the world does not make me hate, I trust my heart, and any assumed scarcity (of kindness and compassion) does not get to say how the story ends.
But how? And where do we begin in a broken world?
There is a well-known story concerning a Rabbi who came across the prophet Elijah, and asked him: “Tell me—when will the Messiah come?”
Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.”
“Where is he?” asked the Rabbi.
“He’s sitting at the gates of the city,” said Elijah.
“But how will I know which one is he?”
The Prophet replied, “He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and bind them up again, but he unbinds only one at a time and binds them up again, saying to himself, ‘Perhaps I shall be needed; if so, I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.’”
In his book The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen adds, “What I find impressive in this story are these two things: first, the faithful tending of one’s own woundedness and second, the willingness to move to the aid of other people and to make the fruits of our own woundedness available to others.”
I’ve known about the story of the wounded healer for many years. I first read it in seminary. I understood in cerebrally. Now, I get it, in my gut. I just don’t like those wounded (flawed, broken) parts of me. But I do know what it is to be wounded. Though I do my very best to hide it. I see nothing good there. But what if? What if brokenness is not a “fixable problem,” but an opportunity for grace and love and ministry?
Many of us live under the illusion that one of these “experts” has created a life to die for, to be emulated. If that’s the case, knock yourself out, but just remember that there’s no one to complain to when you find out that, in the end, you—the flawed and broken you—can be a pretty trustworthy guide on this expedition we call life. Nouwen writes, “Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?'” When we do, we are Tikkun Olam, repairers of the world.
Here’s the deal: We are all wounded healers (where our wounds cease to be a source of shame and become a source of healing). No, this is not a strategy. This is a fact. It spills from those parts of our life that have been broken open, from those parts of us flawed and imperfect. So. What if this is not about accepting imperfection as some kind of divine teaching moment? What if the gift is in the inimitability of our humanity? When we embrace what is already inside, we live from the power of sufficiency.
I confess that I love the “autumn” garden. The plants accept fragility, as if unafraid of the temporal and the broken. They have only this moment, days with golden light. Absent now is the manic pace of a spring garden. And the plants shine without striving.
I enjoyed watching the full meeting of the Accession Council where Charles was formally proclaimed King Charles III. The last Council 70 years ago.
And on the golf course yesterday, a pair of Canada Geese. Smiling big, I chatted them up, wondering when their assembly would be arriving.
Quotes for your week…
I need something to believe in
Breathe in, sanctuary in the
Easy silence that you make for me.
The Dixie Chicks
Notes: A variation of the Messiah story appears in the Talmud–Sanhedrin 98a
Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, My grandson Eric continues his hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (from Canada to Mexico). What a beautiful world! Another beautiful view of Crater Lake. Yes, the water really is that color blue!” Roxanna McKee… Thank you Roxanna and Eric… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Hi Terry, I was doing a mindfulness exercise through the “Daily Calm” app and learned a new word yesterday. I thought it was something you would enjoy–I hope you do. It is yugen, or yuugen, which the person on Daily Calm says roughly translates to (it’s a Japanese word for which there is one English equivalent): an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses that are too mysterious and deep for words. Thank you so much for Sabbath Moments! I look for them eagerly each morning and have many “nuggets” of wisdom from them in my journal. I hope you enjoy this beautiful Labour Day. (I’m in Richmond, BC, so our weather is usually pretty similar), Peace and love to you, Stephanie
–Dear Terry: I just got around to watching the movie/research for the Alzheimer’s or dementia patients. I was crying before it was over! I even sent a request to my children to watch it and to remember what they saw if ever their mother -me- ever gets in that state of unresponsiveness. They know how much I love music! I have even continued to sing in a community College choral group for over 30 years! Music is a part of who I am. So “THANKS” for the Sabbath Moment article of August 25, 2022! God bless you for all you do to keep people sane and with a positive attitude. Shareen
POEMS AND PRAYERS
The great mystery of God’s love is that we are not asked to live as if we are not hurting, as if we are not broken. In fact, we are invited to recognize our brokenness as a brokenness in which we can come in touch with the unique way that God loves us. The great invitation is to live your brokenness under the blessing. I cannot take people’s brokenness away and people cannot take my brokenness away. But how do you live in your brokenness? Do you live your brokenness under the blessing or under the curse?
Henri Nouwen (Lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center)
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love.