The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen

The Wounded Healer. I like that. I identify with that.

In our last Bible study book, The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith, in the chapter called ‘God Transforms’ the author shared a story about vulnerability:

Wanting to communicate the paradox of how we minister to others through our brokenness, he took a cardboard box and asked his students to “beat it up”. They punctured holes in the box, kicked it around and tore pieces off of it. Then he placed the box on the table in front of them all. Underneath the box was a light. He dimmed the house lights, and then turned on the light inside of the box. He didn’t need to say any more. They all understood. The light of Jesus shines clearly through our broken places.

The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith (page 163)

That passage illustration resonates with me. Most of the time I feel like I am walking through life with a broken leg and a bleeding heart- but, as Gayle Jonas told me, there is a purpose to the pain.

So I picked up The Wounded Healer. I love Nouwen and the title seems appropriate…

The Wounded Healer is broken up into four sections: Ministry in a Dislocated World, Ministry for a Rootless Generation, Ministry to a Hopeless Man and Ministry by a Lonely Minister. I was very tempted to jump straight to the last chapter- and I am really glad I didn’t. Each chapter got progressively better, and they built on each other (as one would expect).

Nouwen talks about the condition of modern man- how he is different than previous generations and how to minister to him effectively. He talks about the hopless man- the man who has no reason to live but does not want to die (I met many people in that predicament in Haiti), and he talks about the lonely minister (whom I can identify with more than is comfortable).

It’s a short and relatively simple book, but it’s profound. The way he simply walks the reader from point to point reminds me a but of CS Lewis’ apologetics, but it’s not nearly so dense.

What I’ve learned is that suffering is part of the human condition. There is no escaping it, but when we embrace our pain- when we look at it and see it as part of what makes us who we are and what makes us available to others and open to God it can be a beautiful thing. Or as Nouwen put it, “… the wound, which causes us to suffer now, will be revealed to us later as the place where God intimated His new creation.” (Conclusion, page 96)

When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope. … A Christian community is therefore a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision.

The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen (Page 93-34)

(Side note: I find it really difficult to express myself lately- I can’t quite get the words out right. I suppose this means I am not writing enough? I feel like my brain is dying. Sorry.)

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