In the exuberant craze to dive into a book or novel, we tend to negate Authorial intent and blow past a book’s Introduction and Foreword. Especially in more recent publications, they can be tedious and self reverential – thanking Jesus, the author’s Mother, and the myriad behind the scenes contributors who deserve enumeration and praise from the Author’s research. They can be the literary versions of Academy Award speeches.
However, in the best written Introductions and Forewords, Seminary taught me that the author’s narrative arc of the book is usually contained in the Introduction. Skip the Intro and you miss the Author’s whole line of thought. In the Introduction to Henri Nouwen’s The Wounded Healer, he explains:
“…in the middle of all fragmentation one image slowly arose as the focus of all considerations: the image of the Wounded Healer. This image was the last in coming. After all attempts to articulate the predicament of modern man, the necessity to articulate the predicament of the minister himself became most important. For the minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his time in his own heart and make that recognition the starting point of his service. Whether he tries to enter into a dislocated world, relate to a convulsive generation, or speak to a dying man, his service will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which he speaks.”
This, my friends, is Introductional gold. We serve a Wounded Healer. And our Wounded Healer is in the business of creating and sanctifying other wounded healers in His image and likeness. To the great Joy of mankind and especially to the Church, “there is life beyond His scars.” If you want to serve Jesus, He will bring you through suffering. Apart from this magnificent and great Truth, my experiences over the past year can seem to be without purpose. Rest assured, they are not. The pain and suffering of the past year has been the sanctifying fire of affliction. This week in particular is one of immense reflection, prayer, and processing. In one week, I am told, my wife will file for divorce.
Between now and then, on the Church calendar this Sunday, is Pentecost. Wounded healers believe and revel in the miraculous. I am expectantly seeking miraculous reconciliation, but as a means of being deeply connected to reality, I am preparing for the worst. I am pleading with the Lord for Grace and Mercy, yet not sticking my head in the sand with regard to the ways of the Lord. His ways are not our ways…
The next several blog posts over the next month leading up to receiving the official divorce request will specify in detail how the Lord brought me through the surgical table of grief, anxiety and depression this past year. I am in a “middle Earth” of sorts. Rose Hill, VA is my Shire. I am midway through this grief and through this battle. Like the Battle of Midway in the Pacific during WWII, the results of this week will be consequential for the rest of my personal history. However, this journey is not for the faint of heart. Fair warning. Like Aslan in Narnia, this process of writing will be good, but it will not be safe. Nouwen counsels us further,
“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?”
The first paragraph of Francis Thompson’s 19th century poem, The Hound of Heaven explains my initial reaction to the pain of my wife leaving our home last May. The total shock of her leaving left me running from myself and running from close interaction with the Lord. The struggle to pray with any sense of conviction or desire was essentially non-existent. This was my initial reaction, but the Lord was faithful to not leave me there.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes I sped; And shot, precipitated, Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears, From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
As the Groom discipling me how to be a groom in His image, He pursued me when I ran the opposite direction. I am the Bride that runs. I ran fast and I ran hard, but it looked more like remaining still and attempting to numb the pain. Televised distraction was my drug of choice. If you have never seen the video short of The Hound of Heaven, featuring the Narrator artist Propaganda, I highly recommend it. It was the most helpful thing I watched over the past year.
Not sure what your personal idols are, but food (overeating more specifically) and wasting time with Netflix, Amazon Prime, PBS, etc, etc was my drug of choice. Given the circumstances of where I currently live in Lee Country, VA, these are not the most destructive drugs of choice I could have made, but they sure took their toll. Like The Hound of Heaven that He is, God ran after His Bride. He was teaching me.
But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbèd pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, They beat—and a Voice beat More instant than the Feet— ‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
In Chapter 1 of A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis gives a picture of my summer last year,
“They say an unhappy man wants distractions – something to take him out of himself. Only as a dog-tired man wants an extra blanket on a cold night; he’d rather lie there shivering than get up and find one. It’s easy to see why the lonely become untidy, finally, dirty and disgusting. Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desparate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”
It is this silence, His Holy Silence, which is the petri dish of our spiritual growth. In His silence, the warmth of His Light and His embrace is felt. The catch is in the being still and waiting upon the Lord. Oh, the waiting. “How long?” cries the Psalmist and the Holy Spirit within! When the ear yearns and desires to hear the faint whisperings of Her Husband, the Bride is made perfect – a pearl of great price.
The Orchardist‘s song, Sing Into My Silence, from their album, Dirt On Your Hands, basically unpacks the last year of my life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for God to “Show me who You are! Show me who You are!” through late night, insomnia-driven, teared-soaked pillows of prayer. “Lord I believe, but help my unbelief“…
The Orchardist – Sing Into My Silence Like windows in a cathedral, When sun shines through stained glass. Only then, can color fill up the spaces, where shadows are cast. I’m a stained glass image of my Father. This temple is home to sin, and the only way to reflect the fullness of His color, is to let the light in. I’m tired of trying to break through the silence. My eyes have adjusted to the dark. So Lord come and cleanse me from my blindness, Show me who You are! Show me who You are! I’m standing on the edge here. Between my silence and Yourself. I need to know that I haven’t heard it all before. I need You to prove me wrong. ‘Cause every time I open up my mouth, Your music never comes. So Lord, release me from these lies, that kept your Truth away, from my tongue. I’m tired of trying to break through the silence. My eyes have adjusted to the dark. So Lord come and cleanse me from my blindness, Show me who You are! Show me who You are! I’ve been living like the last word was spoken, When Your body was nailed onto the Cross, I’ve forgotten that no bone of Yours was broken, That there’s Life beyond Your scars. Life beyond Your scars! Sing, into my silence, Speak, unto my tongue. Yes Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. Laugh, into my darkness, Breathe, into my lungs. Yes Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. Yes Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. Oh, I’ve been living like the last word was spoken, When Your body was nailed onto the Cross, I’ve forgotten that no bone of Yours was broken, That there’s Life beyond Your scars. And, I’m tired of trying to break through the silence. My eyes have adjusted to the dark. So Lord come and cleanse me from my blindness, Show me who You are! Show me who You are! There’s Life beyond Your scars!
In fact, in a recent conversation with a good friend Enrique, he mentioned that the often misunderstood parables scream out for how our Husband sells all that He has to buy a field and, as a merchant, purchases the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 15:44-45). Most often, I have been told that the Pearl of Great Price is Jesus. Well, if He is the Pearl, so many of us (self included) have not sold all that they have to buy that field.
Give us time, Jesus, and we might just fall in your footsteps. We might trod where only You have gone before. We’ll be the Bride marching down that aisle to meet her Husband who went before. A consummation is coming. Hallelujah!
Until then, Jesus, The Wounded Healer, is in the process of showing other wounded healers made in His image and likeness, stained glass windows reflecting His colors to the world, that there is life beyond our scars. Audrey Assad’s album, Evergreen, has carried me the past six months from despair to hope filled joy, particularly her song Wounded Healer, which I take was inspired by Father Nouwen. If I ever get a chance to meet her, she might just get a well deserved hug. Thank you Lord for Audrey!
The Resurrection screams out that the Life beyond the scars is not just life, but in fact, world changing. The world has never been the same. The gift of the Holy Spirit given to His Bride on the day of Pentecost. As we remember that day of Pentecost this Sunday, may we plead with Him to walk in that power, life, and abundance of Joy. Let me pray for my wife like that Lord. Let me walk in that level of Holy Spirit driven Life, abundant Life.
My marriage needs a miracle right now. Lord, grant the miracle of reconciliation.
“Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”