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Jesus – the original wounded healer

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We’re all in the process of going from weakness to strength, from wounding to health. Henri Nouwen understood and exemplified the healing power of weakness. As a Yale professor, he was powerful, but as a volunteer who served the handicapped in L’Arche, he relinquished his power and became a heal…
By Seth Barnes

Wounded HealerWe’re all in the process of going from weakness to strength, from wounding to health.

Henri Nouwen understood and exemplified the healing power of weakness. As a Yale professor, he was powerful, but as a volunteer who served the handicapped in L’Arche, he relinquished his power and became a healer. His insights on the subject are profound:

Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?” When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through his wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love. As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.

To enter into solidarity with a suffering person does not mean that we have to talk with that person about our own suffering. Speaking about our own pain is seldom helpful for someone who is in pain. A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds. When we have lived through a painful depression, we can listen with great attentiveness and love to a depressed friend without mentioning our experience. Mostly it is better not to direct a suffering person’s attention to ourselves. We have to trust that our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings. That is healing.

If you’d like to read more on the subject, I suggest that you get Nouwen’s book The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. Actually, Nouwen is one of a few authors that I recommend without reservation. Anything he writes is profound. Two others are Fredrich Buechner and Brennan Manning.

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