Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Wounded Healer

The Wounded Healer

Dcn Dale Matson


Henri Nouwen authored “The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society” (1974). Briefly it is how our own woundedness connects us to the suffering of others in our ministry. As someone who worked in the human services profession for many years, it became evident to me that many in that field were attracted because of their own story of suffering. Perhaps these individuals were touched by the suffering of a family member with chronic physical or mental affliction. Thus their work as caregivers was a professional extension of the role they played in their family of origin. Perhaps they themselves were survivors of dysfunctional families and were abused in their family or later in a marriage. Whatever the situation, they met someone along the way who helped them to deal with their situation and the attendant pain. It is at this point that one is reminded of one of St. Paul’s statements. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforted us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:34). God has worked through His people to bring His comfort to others. How often has the abused woman been helped at a shelter for battered women and herself volunteered at a shelter later?

On a more personal note I can say that as a college sophomore I was struggling with feelings of loneliness and anxiety. I actually attempted to break my hands on a door because physical pain would have been a relief and a welcome distraction. I was treated at the University Clinic and found to have no fractures but a visit to the campus counseling center was recommended. As I told the Psychologist my problems, he looked at me and said, “You’ve been suffering a great deal haven’t you”? I don’t think I have ever cried as much as I did following his statement. He understood. I was not alone. From that moment I wanted to bring the same comfort to another that I was given. I eventually became a licensed Psychologist and School Psychologist. The children who were my best fit were those who were social isolates, anxious, shy and withdrawn. God has given me the gift of exhortation and it has served Him well as I ministered to those who needed it.

Last but not least, there is one more wounded healer. It is Christ Himself who asked Thomas the doubter to place his hand in His wound. Our God understands and connects to us through our woundedness and suffering because He has also experienced the temptations and the pain. He offers us His consolations as we experience suffering. We too can offer this comfort to others that we were comforted with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is really profound, and it goes to the heart of the Gospel and its message of who Jesus is and why what he has done makes all the difference. It has life-changing implications for the meaning of our own suffering.

We don't have to allow our pain to bury us; we can allow God to transform it and give it real meaning.

Thanks Deacon Dale!

Tom Brisson
St. Paul's Anglican