Monthly theme: Daily Healing
Reading time: two minutes
“Wounded healers” is what Henri Nouwen called people in ministry. I like “scarred healers” better.
(Notice: that’s scarred not scared. There might be a connection, but that’s a topic for another time.)
By scarred, not wounded, I mean that we in ministry have experienced hurt in our own lives, but have also known the healing power of grace.
We minister from our scars, not from our wounds.
When our wounds become scars we’re more effective in our ministry to the souls of the wounded and broken people that we serve.
When speaking of the healing power of the gospel, C. F. W. Walther said, “A person who has not been put through this experience is a sound without meaning, a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol.
“But a preacher who has personally passed through this experience can really speak to the heart,
“…and what he says will really go into the hearts of his hearers.” (Law and Gospel, 3rd Evening Lecture)
Nouwen warns of twin dangers in this regard. We can’t effectively minister to others while trying to keep our own painful experiences in life hidden, as if we were invulnerable.
But “spiritual exhibitionism,” where the wounded healer bleeds all over the congregation, is equally ineffective. He suggests that “open wounds stink and do not heal.”
So how do we who seek to be healers find healing in our own woundedness so that we might become scarred healers, instruments and witnesses of the Lord’s restoring grace?
It begins with lament: Feel it. Identify it. Offer it to God.
Like Walther suggested, only those who have known the pain of betrayal, or undeserved criticism, or exhaustion, or failure are able to minister effectively. First, like the Psalmists, we feel the hurt, identify it and put it into words, and then cry out for mercy from our God who sees and hears and heals.
Second, we find comfort from God in the promises of our baptismal identity as His beloved children, in the forgiveness of sins, and in the hope of continued joy in His salvation.
Next, we respond to God’s healing in gratitude, and maybe even, by His grace, gratitude for the burdens of the cross that mold us into able servants.
And then we serve from a place of our own healing.
I think the Gerasene demoniac serves as an example of a wounded/scarred healer.
He had known the horror of demonic possession, but had fully experienced the relief that only Jesus can give. When his wounds had become scars, when he was restored to himself again, he begged to follow Jesus.
But Jesus had a different plan for him. It was not to disregard his prior condition, or to ignore his time of suffering. He was to use his experience of brokenness and subsequent substantial healing to share the good news of the kingdom.
Jesus said, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
That sounds a lot like what healing ministry is all about.
Thanks for reading.