Friday, June 24, 2011


When we find ourselves caught in the grip of an uninvited, harsh situation, it is easy to quickly ask, "Why me?" Seldom, if ever, have I head someone ask the same question as they bask in hundreds of great moments during an exceptionally good day. It is not as though we feel entitled. It's just easy to go with the flow and experience the pleasure of life when it comes our way, usually on a fairly regular basis. But in that moment of surprise and agony, which eventually comes in varying degrees to all of us, we cry out in anguish, "Why me?" "What did I do to deserve this?" "What is God trying to say to me?" "I wish I were dead."

Perhaps a word from Henri Nouwen will give a necessary theme to ponder. Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest who wrote 40 books, taught in prestigious universities, i.e. Yale and Harvard, and eventually lived out his days residing in a home for the developmentally challenged in Toronto. The thesis of much of his writing was the growth of the inner person through attention to spirituality and while he nurtured that through academics, travel, prayer, and reflection, he found his "place" in a setting of pain. Day in and day out he tended to those who could barely do for themselves, if at all.

One of Nouwen's best books was entitled THE WOUNDED HEALER. He discovered that instead of asking "Why?" about his circumstances of life, he could use the pain he had experienced as a way of opening his heart toward others.

Nouwen knew about wounds. He struggled with clinical depression. He had a difficult time coming to terms with his sexuality and only late in his life could he discuss, with friends, his homosexuality. His health declined considerably in the last few years of his life before he died in 1996. Gradually he learned to stop asking "Why me?" and instead asked "How may I be with you?", "How may I address this situation of pain?" Out of his own wounds he learned to identify with others, empathize, and be a presence to a time of need.

Working out of our woundedness can assist not only with pain but also with injustice. It was out of their wounds that the parents of Pat Tillman exposed the cover-up related to the death of their son in battle and, at least for a season, let it be known that the powers-that-be could not get away with that kind of atrocity.

Providing healing for someone else out of our own pain can not be scripted. We just have to wait until a time of need or crisis comes along and then see if we can show up and be present.

1 comment:

  1. Nouwen is one we could pattern our lives after...