Tag Archives: wounds

On retreat–the bear got poked

Some years, my week-long silent retreats are days of rest, prayer, meditative walks and feeling God’s presence. Other years, some old wound in need of healing is revealed. This year’s retreat was the latter.

On the fourth night, I attended a Healing Service. The presider talked about the difference between being cured (disease is gone) and healed (disease is still there but attitude toward the disease is transformed).

He talked about holding grudges and how doing so is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

None of this was new to me.

Then he shared a story from his university days in Europe, and I felt resentful. “Lucky you,” I thought, and then I remembered that I had gone to Spain when I was in college. Why would I resent his time in Europe? It made no sense.

That night, I had a dream—one I had had before—about not knowing my place, about overstepping my bounds.

“The bear got poked,” I told my spiritual director.

I told her how I noticed my resentment during the healing service and how it had surprised me. And then I started to cry. Tears from some deep place, pouring out as if a scab had been ripped away from a wound.

I try to pay attention to when I am angry, and I try not to hold grudges. So how had I not noticed that my snide comments and eye-rolls were a sign of resentment or envy?

My director talked about how grudges can come from old hurts that seemingly have nothing to do with the current situation. She suggested I reflect on hurtful events from my past and try to get some distance from my emotional entanglements to them.

That night, I saw three deer walking along the edge of the woods. Deer are a sign for me of God’s presence, and in that moment, I felt comforted in the reminder that God is with me on this journey.

The next day, I walked to the wetlands and just as I was about to sit down on the dock, I noticed two deer about twenty feet away, partially hidden by the brown reeds. They looked at me but did not run. I sat down and watched them. 

After a few minutes, they disappeared into the woods.

I remembered my walk through the woods my first day of retreat and how the undergrowth made the woods seem impenetrable. Yet the deer we able to enter.

I took a walk through the woods and felt that God was inviting me to look again at the undergrowth, but with a softened gaze so I could see beyond what appeared to be a mess—like those optical illusions that require soft eyes to see the hidden picture.  

With soft eyes, I can see that the deer are hiding in plain sight.

With soft eyes, I can see that God, too, is right in front of me, desiring to heal my wounds.

Being healed

Do you want to be healed? Jesus asked the man sitting near the pool (John 5:5-15).

Reading that passage, I thought, “What kind of question is that?” Who doesn’t want to be healed?

Can you imagine someone asking you if you want to be healed and you would say, “Hmm, let me think about that.” Rather, I think most of us would answer without hesitation, “Yes, I want to be healed.”

So why does Jesus ask that question?

Perhaps because we may want to be healed in theory, but in reality, we get some benefit from being unhealed. Maybe it is sympathy for our suffering or a familiarity and comfort in our identity as one who suffers. Perhaps it is just that we don’t even know that we are holding onto something that needs healing, let alone how to let go and be healed.

The answer to Jesus’ question might often be a “Yes, but…”

Yes, I want to be healed, but I also want to hold onto some of the identity associated with what ails me, to stick with what feels comfortable.

Yes, I want to be healed, but I do not want let go of all of my anger, resentments and fears.

All kinds of things can cripple us or bind us—old hurts, low self-esteem, insecurity, grief—things we need to work on or through.

That work can be challenging, and the changes might not be evident for a long time. Not every healing happens the immediate way it did with Jesus.

God-forgiveness-healing

I have wounds that go way back to my childhood—and then additional wounds on top of those. Some are more traumatic than others, and some have been healed just as new hurts occurred. It seems to me that healing is the work of a lifetime.

Jesus desires that we be healed. He showed that many times throughout the Gospels, from healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (Luke 4:38-41) to the paralyzed man lowered through the roof (Luke 5:17-20) to the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Mark 5:25-29). He healed people of all ages and from different backgrounds. He brought Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22-42) and Lazarus (John 11:1-44) back from the dead.

He wants us to be healed and live full lives. He wants us to leap up like the man healed by Peter in Acts 3 so that we, too, are “jumping and praising God.”

Oh such joy! Who wouldn’t want that?

Maybe Jesus would ask follow-up questions like, What is stopping you from receiving healing love? What is blocking the path to living more joyfully? What is one thing you can let go of that will make you freer to give and receive forgiveness?

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I have been thinking a lot lately about seeing people as God sees them, and I believe God sees each of us as our best self, and God’s desire is that we grow into that image, to become the person that God created us to be.

"I've been waiting for you."

I had just finished making my purchase at Office Depot and complimented the young cashier on her earrings. I asked if she had made them. She hadn’t, and she told me where she bought them.

“Are they something you would wear?” she asked.

“I would.”

“I have been waiting for you,” she said. “Stay right there.”

She bent down, retrieved a package from the shelf beneath the counter and handed it to me.

I thanked her and walked out of the store with my gift—a small bag containing the same earrings she was wearing and a card with “Thank you” printed on the front and this handwritten message on the inside:

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal. -Steve Maraboli.

Pass the kindness on. The world could use it.

She had drawn two hearts on the card and signed her name.

Since that encounter, I keep thinking of her intentionality and thoughtfulness. I am amazed at how planful she was in her act of kindness. It was only random in the sense of her having no idea who would receive it.

That encounter reminded me of a woman I met years ago after her one-woman show performed in a small chapel at my university. I had approached her to thank her for her presentation and we discovered we had both lived in l’Arche communities.

She shared that she decided to move to l’Arche after meeting a man from my community who was visiting her college for a weekend workshop designed for students to learn about l’Arche. She said that Ross had walked right up to her, lightly touched her arm and said, “I have been looking for you.” She knew in that instant that she was supposed to live in l’Arche.

I didn’t tell her that Ross did that to many people, because it did not really matter. What mattered was that she was the one who was open to hearing his message; she was the one who responded to the invitation.

How many of us are waiting for someone to choose us to hear a certain message or receive a gift? How many of us are waiting for an invitation?

Conversely, how can we be instruments of change by acknowledging someone, by inviting others to see in new ways or by acts of kindness?

After I had met the woman from l’Arche, I often thought about how Ross knew which people to approach. I wondered if he had an intuition that certain people were waiting to be asked.

Now I can see that we are all waiting, even if we don’t know it.

I walked into that store with a list of things I needed to buy; I walked out with a deeper understanding of generosity.

I was deeply moved by that young woman’s act of kindness, and I find myself telling this story with a sense of wonder.

Have you had similar experiences? The world could use more kindness, so please share your stories.

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See my wounds

While praying with the resurrection stories this week—scripture passages I have read dozens of times, heard preached about every year and thought I knew so well—I had an “aha” moment.

The idea that Jesus’ suffering was not in vain, that his death had a redemptive quality is not new.

This year, though, the image of Jesus showing his wounds to the disciples after his resurrection took on a different meaning for me.

Recently, I have been pondering sharing more of my wounds. I have written pieces that expose parts of my story that have been long kept secret. Although I have been through years of therapy to help me get past the shame, I can still be crippled by it. Don’t tell are two words that reverberate in my mind and prevent me from full disclosure.

I admire others who get past shame and tell all and am amazed by those who seem to have escaped shame all together.

But I have not been able to shake off shame. I still cringe whenever I reveal a detail of my past, when I speak of something I have been warned not to tell.

Reading the resurrection stories this year and imagining the scene of Jesus standing with his fearful disciples sparked a new insight.

Jesus got his wounds in a shameful fashion. He was mistreated by his own religious leaders and crucified as a common criminal.

The disciples scattered rather than stand at the foot of the cross and watch the man they respected be humiliated and disgraced. He had been their leader, but now he was broken—not powerful at all, but humbly submitting to ridicule, abuse and death.  

And yet, just days later, there he was, standing in their midst and inviting them to look at his wounds.

For Jesus, they were not marks of shame, but rather signs of victory. He was proud to show the marks of his suffering.

The disciples had been cowering in a locked room when Jesus appeared and invited them to look at his wounds.

What was clearer to me this year is that if Jesus could endure humiliation and overcome shame, so could his disciples. He was inviting them (and me) to shake off shame, to convert what looked like weakness into power, to break free of the bonds that kept them in hiding, behind locked doors.

Jesus broke through their fears and invited them to spread the word that humiliating treatment did not define or limit him, but rather he converted that treatment into true freedom.

God-healing-faith

Fear drives people to abuse power and victimize vulnerable people.

By showing his wounds as signs of triumph over the fears of others, Jesus was offering the ultimate freedom. He did not let what had happened to him to limit or define him, and he invites me to do the same.

Showing his wounds was the exclamation point on his message that fear is useless and that trust in God leads to freedom.     

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God-forgiveness-vulnerability

Return to God

Return to me with your whole heart—Joel 2:12

One theme that emerged during my recent retreat was home, as in coming home or being at home.

I had brought last year’s journals with me, and one entry reflected a conversation with a friend who had been going through a rough time but was starting to feel like himself again. He said he had started to feel like he was inhabiting his body again and that he was looking out through his own eyes.

It was as if he was coming home to himself.

I resonated.

For so long, I have felt out of sorts. Great loss and grief can do that. So the idea of coming home to myself is appealing. I want to live in my body and to look at the world through my own eyes.

Another coming home is the actual coming home to the place where I was born and grew up, which is what I did five years ago. Living near my family is a blessing for which I thank God every day.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityA third coming home is returning to God, and in the midst of Lent, I find myself thinking of what it means to come home to God.

Lent invites me to turn away from what separates me from God and turn toward God.

Recently, several people have come to me with questions about prayer or about nonprofit management. After each of these conversations, I am left with a clearer understanding that (1) I have a depth of experience in these two areas, and (2) my experience can be helpful to others.

Sometimes, though, my experience leads me to insights that might be uncomfortable or challenging to those asking for my help.

A young woman came to talk with me about the anger she carries toward the man who raped her. “How can you suggest I forgive him?” she asked with an edge to her voice.

“Your anger does not affect him; it affects you,” I offered. “He doesn’t even know that you are angry; he has moved on.” Not forgiving him does not hurt him in the least; but holding onto her anger keeps her in bondage.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityI think she both wanted to hear that message and did not want to hear it. Forgiveness can be so difficult, and radical forgiveness—forgiveness for some horrible act—can seem impossible.

I know because I, too, hold onto some anger for past hurts. I want to forgive, even the people who hurt me the worst, who left the deepest scars; it is difficult. I pray for the grace to let go, and I look to Jesus’ example for inspiration. At the moment of his death, he forgave those who put him to death.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityComing home to God, for me, means being true to my history and experiences. It means speaking of radical forgiveness and believing in it.

I want to return to God with my whole heart—and with my heart made whole.