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The Wounded Healer

May 11, AD2016

WoundedHealer_pixabayIn last week’s column, I shared a most painful and debilitating event in my family’s life. I waited two-and-a-half years to publish our story; not for publicity or tabloid sensationalism, but to serve as a testament to how God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit uses our wounds for a greater purpose. After publishing our experience, I was inundated with people reaching out to me personally through the combox, social media, email, to express their gratitude for my courage in sharing our experience.

But our experience was not to receive pity for my family and me or to shame the Church in any way. My article simply demonstrated my willingness to allow God to use our experience to help heal others. God uses all of us, if we allow Him, to heal others who might be also traveling a difficult journey in life and just need a glimmer of hope toward healing, or just need to reinforce their own faith.

Victims or Victors

With every event in our lives, we have a choice. We can either choose to be victims or victors. Regardless of what life, or Satan, throws at us, no matter how horrific or life-altering, we can rise from the ashes and sing praises, or cower and lick our wounds endlessly, wearing a badge of self-pity or shame. We can seek to be the center of our suffering or the guiding light to others who are also suffering.

Often it seems that events in life come at us with such velocity that we question how we can possibly endure and persevere through yet another disappoint, heartache, loss, or injury. We cling to our faith and believe what Scripture tell us. We hope. We pray. We strive to be faithful Christians, but what we fail to accept is that with salvation comes suffering. And suffering leads to growth. And growth leads to wisdom. And wisdom leads to faithful witness.

Each one of us has a story. It doesn’t matter your age, your race, your social status, your level of education, or even the magnitude or minuscule of your level of endurance or faith. You have a story. You are a witness, whose life experiences are significant and relevant beyond your wildest imagination. For through your pain, you become the healing balm for another wounded individual, seeking the love and compassion that Christ instructs us to show to one another.

Henri Nouwen (pronounced Henry Now-win) was an internationally respected priest who was beloved by Catholics and Protestants alike. He had the ability to remind all of us that despite our fallible nature, we possess a God-given spirit of healing.

In his book entitled The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society, Henri said:

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” 

Ponder that quote for just a moment. If you were diagnosed with cancer, would you want someone telling you how to cope and persevere who never had cancer? Or would you prefer speaking to someone who had the same cell type and diagnoses and survived? What did they do? How were they treated? How was their faith challenged? How did they grow?

Spiritual healing is no different. If you have been sexually assaulted and your faith shattered, in time wouldn’t you be encouraged to hear from another person like you about how they persevered and healed, as best they could? And how their faith was restored? And it grew more deeply rooted? Thus, my daughter’s therapist is her wounded healer.

Wounded Healers

Henri Nouwen says that we are all wounded healers. Every single one of us will suffer in this life. Everyone will lose someone they love through death. Everyone will feel the euphoria of accomplishment and the greater debilitating weight of failure and disappointment. How we travel this journey in life has a great deal to do with how we choose (there is that word again) to view our purpose. And our purpose is to help one another.

Still don’t think this assignment applies to you?

“Experience tells us that we can only love because we are born out of love, that we can only give because our life is a gift, and that we can only make others free because we are set free by Him whose heart is greater than ours. When we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song and speak their own language without fear.”  – Henri Nowen

You are a Son or a Daughter of the Most High God, called into His service by your mere being; loved beyond measure. What you are able to accomplish on this earth depends in part upon your willingness to allow your scars to serve as guiding stars for others to follow. And in that mission, allow the light of Christ to shine through you.

Now where can you be that healing light and share your reason for hope?

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” [1 Peter 3:15]

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Recognized as the former Editor in Chief, Diane McKelva is now the Editor Emeritus of Catholic Stand. You can learn more about Diane and her work here.

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  • Paula, thank you for reading and sharing your own experience with me. Please know that we are still struggling. I have my days where the righteous anger surfaces, as I am watching my daughter struggle with her PTSD. I’m confident that when my precious baby girl turns 18 she will no longer attend any Catholic Church. The hypocrisy of the Church is just something that she cannot get past. I can’t argue with her. People who are leaders should be held to a higher standard than me or you. Mistakes happen. But when people deliberately lie, conceal, deceive and hurt innocent people, they should not be leading in the Church or any Catholic entity. They should be held accountable.

    All those priests that abused the 3,400 children should be in jail, but placed in “religious retirement” and protected. Shame on the Church. I get the whole “we are all sinners” justification, but I have witnessed that statement used too quickly to push the truth to the sidelines and precede using the “for the Greater Good” mentality.

    Our daughter attended our parish Catholic school. The 6 -8 grades were hell. She was bullied so severely and the worst were teachers’ kids. I learned when I served as a substitute teacher that the school preferred that you night be too strict with the big donors children. I stopped subbing.

    God bless you and your family.

  • Paula Warnes

    I am more bitter than you are about the experience of putting my children in our local “Katholic” school. However, I share your appreciation for the Latin Mass. God Bless You and your dear daughter!