While I was no better off than them I knew that going back to a prison cell was not something that I wanted. So one night I remember laying in my bed in my room and began to recall all the things that I had experienced, and for the first time began to think about what my future held. Thoughts of my friends’ actions and mentality began to creep in, as well as a realization that their choices and decisions were not the ones that I was envisioning for my future. As I lay there that night I began to stew in my past and what a miserable hand that I had been dealt. I thought deeply about all of my life’s regrets and what had become to the 35 year old man.
I thought of my dad, step-father and mother. For the first time in my life I began to see the consuming anger and hatred that my life had become to the point of despair. For some reason that night I also thought of those messages that I heard in my grandparents’ church, those messages that my step-father preached, yet had not practiced, those messages that chaplains and preachers brought to me in some of the deepest and darkest times in my life. That night, through the anger, fear and hatred I began to recall those Biblical stories that told of a caring, kind, and compassionate God that desired happiness and peace for His sheep.
That night I began to see that what I desired is what I had been fleeing. No parting of the clouds or a burning bush but simply a softening of a very hardened heart, by which I could view these things in a differing light. Beyond my calloused flesh, I began to see the distant, flickering promise of God and a scripture, that I can never recall hearing before, began to settle on my heart, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (I didn’t know it was John 16:33, would soon).
I remember lying there that night, and for the first time since my mom was given the cancer diagnosis, prayed through a torrent of tears a very simple prayer, “God help me!” and I fell asleep. I awoke the next morning, still the same angry and tormented person, and tried to forget the previous night’s thoughts chalking it up to stress and desperation but with a new found realization of wanting to escape my present reality.
That next morning I had an job interview with someone that I had never met but who had heard through a Christian friend that I was looking for work. Despite my anger and stubbornness I found that something extraordinary might be going on. I met with the gentlemen and began working as a landscaper the very same day. After a month of working for him I had been promoted to a manager and had amassed enough money to move out on my own.
For the first time my past took a backseat to my future. Around this time the office manager of the landscape company asked me out on a date and I readily agreed. It did not take very long for her to express her Christian faith to me. It did not take long for me to see that she valued her relationship with God. I tried refute her position using shared pieces of my life and all of my reasoning behind my anger toward God. She sat patiently listening to my tirade, and then took out a Bible and began reading to me the scripture that had been placed on my heart a month ago. That verse from John 16:33 began to wrap my heart as she gently and lovingly began to show me a little of the trials and tribulations that she had faced in her life.
For the first time ever, I felt like I was not alone. As she began to share her own anger and resentment toward God I could not help but feel that there was something to it all. Many nights she continued to listen to this conflicted, angry man as he came to terms with the misplaced hostility toward God. She invited me to church; the whole time we sat in amazement as the pastor spoke directly into our lives.
We began attending Bible studies and exploring together the scriptural truths of God’s Word. Through the study of the scripture, the exploration of my past and the love and kindness of this amazing woman I began to view God not as a make-believe figure whom I could blame for everything but as a kind, loving and compassionate Lord who gave so dearly in order to free us all from the bondage and slavery to sin. We were married at that church, and Christ was no longer a foreign object to me but the foundation upon which our marriage was to be built. Yet again, a new reality had set in.
The Wounded Healer
From my many scars of deep and serious wounds (imposed or self-inflicted), I am beginning to understand what Nouwen meant. Nouwen states that the minister, “is called to be the wounded healer, the one who must look after his own wounds but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others. He is both the wounded minister and the healing minister….” (Wounded Healer, 82) For the minister there is a connection between the suffering that this world has to offer and the suffering in the minister’s heart that leads to the precept of a wounded healer. The wounded healer is one who takes his own loneliness and suffering and through that lens of understanding creates a “hospitable space” for all of those who are wounded and looking for understanding and consolation. The wounds of the minister enable him to enter into the pain and affliction that the person is enduring, begin to understand them on a different level and connect with the person through a mutual suffering.
“For the minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his time in his own heart and to 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.” (Wounded Healer, xiv)
I wish this could be the end of the story. But there is more…