“…Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts…
Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?...”
Jeremiah 15, Tuesday Holy Week, the Reading, Morning Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One
I have been blessed, graced, to know healing, truly, deeply and in a way which has left me both transformed and transforming, healed by the God of love and life. I too have known others who, like me, also know the shared experience, the truth of healing and the transformation born of resurrection. Though the cynical world’s voice would have us believe otherwise so to hold us bound to its misery, people can and people do change. These are the people who then are changed into the citizens of the world of hope and beauty.
Yet, there are wounds which remain, which persist in themselves it seems, to refuse healing. I am a survivor of sexual abuse. After many, many years of therapy and healing, I thought I had closed the book on the old wounds but I came to realize those wounds remain. A while back I was taking a required class for church leaders on child sexual abuse during which I again felt myself reliving the pain of that abuse, reliving it deeply and had to use every bit of will power to keep it together during that class until I had a chance to share it with one of my priests afterward. I was overcome with pain, guilt and shame. In the past, I had addressed the abuse as the feelings arose in therapy, or to try to understand periods of self-destructive behavior, or as a way to understand the “whys” of my addictions. But this time, I saw it not as part of the patchwork of living, but as the thing which propelled the arc of my life.
I don’t pretend to understand it all yet, but I do trust it now, to sit with the abused and wounded me, in the way my priest sat with me that day after the class. As she sat with me in our chapel, and listened, and held my hand as I cried my story out to her and to God, as she then prayed with me and over me, as she made the sign of the cross on my forehead with holy oil in healing and forgiveness (because I needed and wanted forgiveness), and as she put her arms around me and let me cry, and as she reminded me that I am God’s beloved child in whom God is well pleased, I can now sit with the abused child I was, and love him as he is. I'm even learning to not judge him.
God is compassion. When I look back at the chaos of my life, done to me and done to myself, I can offer no explanation of the mystery that brought to where I am, other than to say, I never quit believing what I had been taught early in life, that God will always love me unconditionally as long as I can remember this about God. So I kept trying to remember and kept searching for this God. The God I kept coming to was this compassionate God of unconditional love. True, I’d then start running away again, but the God of compassionate love kept calling me back. I also knew that for me there would never be happiness unless I answered that call.
These wounds still remain though, I must be honest. Yet, I am different. I have thought often of how the New Testament presents the Risen Lord as Jesus, with his wounds intact, and beyond Easter, as Jesus ascending to the Father, with wounds intact. Talk about mystery! Here is God presented as dead, resurrected and ascended, with wounds from beginning to end! Though this still boggles the mind, it does say a few things to me. While the wounds of Jesus remain, the man who bears the wounds is a changed man, a glorious human transformed around his wounds, who is at peace with his wounds and can offer healing through his wounds. “Through” his wounds can mean many things here, but they speak to me as a journey through his wounds, and that his wounds may be a portal through which he traveled to be resurrected and to extend healing to us all, to the history of the world.
Perhaps, he traveled a resurrection journey of a new life, strengthened by healing, so to offer healing. The journey may be to the depth of human experience into the one thing all humans experience, pain and death. Sadly, I can’t say with certainty that all people experience much love on this earth. Maybe that is why Jesus’ wounds remain, to hold the suffering of those abandoned and those from whom love is withheld, to always remain connected to the suffering of the world until the release of death’s hold on us. Maybe this is why some of our wounds remain with us, to serve as the passage to the resurrections in our lives as a restored humanity, to keep us connected to those who suffer around us, to restore healing compassion to ourselves, so we may also may help restore love to this world.
Here’s the thing, none of this happened to me alone. The violations done to me were done by others. They've also been done to countless number of children. My journey towards healing didn't happen alone either. There were people involved with my healing, friends, family, therapists, companions and priests. These people helped open the doors for God’s healing in my persona; they helped create a space for God’s healing simply by loving me as I am, while encouraging me to be more. They were for me and are for me, the Body of Christ, formed too by the wounds of their lives. This is what they taught me, it is our shared woundedness, healing in God’s love for each other, which makes up the Body of Christ. As the body of Christ still bears his wounds, so too does the Body of Christ continue to bear its wounds, without shame, as a real offering to the world: Here, come join us, we are the same, come and share your wounds in our healing journey.
Loving God, living God: We pray our wounds not be a life killing end unto themselves, but rather, by Christ's loving guidance, that our wounds might be portals of salving grace towards our resurrection, into the living compassionate Body of Christ, and in healing service to this earth and humanity. Amen.