The best reason I know to let Him tend your wounds

DSCN4049One of the congregants texted a question to the pastor yesterday: “Why do so many of us who belong to Jesus not experience the intimacy that makes joy bubble up in us and overflow?” We’d been talking about the woman at the well.

The pastor said there are many reasons—one of them busyness. I can’t help wonder if one of the other reasons is that for all our words about wanting intimacy, really we fear it. We’re scared to come too close, scared of what God will see in our nakedness and maybe even more scared of having to see it ourselves.

And the appointment reminder has arrived in my inbox (and yes, I’m going) but there’s this part of me that keeps wanting to shut it down. Stuff it all back in the closet and slam the door and aren’t I making too big a deal of this and shouldn’t I just focus on the good things and leave the hard behind and I can feel the edginess that tells me I’m trying to push away emotions I don’t want to feel.

But Jesus steps toward me, his right hand extended so I can see the wound in his palm as he invites me to place my bruised one in his. He places his left arm around my waist, his hand on my back. I put mine on his shoulder, accepting His invitation to dance. We’re clasped together, that hollow pit in my stomach against the wound in his side, his scarred hand holding mine. He steps and I step and our cheeks brush and my tears leave a mark on his face.

I listen again to the song and see Jesus suffering for love of me and hear the words, “the Saviour drank it all.” And I think of Hebrews 12, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” and I fall at his feet and embrace those beautiful wounded feet, my wounds all of a sudden seeming so small. So small, not in a “these aren’t worth bringing” sort of way but in a “these belong here” sort of way, because, since the cross, every wound that I carry—however big or small—is already part of him. His wounds are his choosing to carry mine.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. (Isaiah 53)

And I hadn’t thought the dance could become any more beautiful than in that moment when he pressed my wounds to his but I’d forgotten that this is the God who is full of surprises. And there in His embrace when He honored my wounds as real—as part of His own—and set me free to cry, the pain that had been there all day, so heavy and sharp, disappeared. As soon as I stopped trying to push it away and let it be there, let myself be there with it, with Him, it was gone. All I could feel in His arms was the deep and quiet joy of being loved. Why do I keep being afraid to go with Him to the hard places, forgetting that they’re always where He meets me most deeply? 

I remember the last time I embraced his feet. It was the only posture I could imagine to express the desperate longing I was feeling. And I remember my sobs of surprise when, too fast for me to see how it happened, Jesus slipped through my grasp and knelt beside me, lifting me into his embrace.

There are many good reasons to let Him tend my wounds. But the best reason I know is that I can’t enter the dance with my hands stuffed deep in my pockets. When I’m trying to run from my wounds, I’m only running from Him.

When Jesus offers to carry your sickness

The pastor speaks of how Jesus takes and carries not just our sins but our sicknesses.

It’s all right there, so clear in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 53 where eight times words referring to physical pain and illness are used. (Jesus is “a man of pains and acquainted with sickness.” Isaiah 53:3b NASB footnotes)

And it’s so clear in the way Matthew uses Isaiah 53:4 to refer to Jesus’ healing ministry:

“[Jesus] drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

He took up our infirmities

And carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17)

The pastor lays it all out and ends with the honest admission, “How it all works—I do not yet understand.”

I don’t either.

But this is how I’m experiencing the first little piece of it these days:

“Jesus, will you take and carry this fatigue that I’m feeling?”

He’s always willing. Sometimes He carries it away, and sometimes He carries it by carrying me.

Gentleman that He is, He always asks the next question. “What else are you carrying? May I carry that too?” Sometimes when I let Him take and carry my concern for a friend or my worry about what people will think or my questions about the future, that’s when I find the fatigue going too. And I realize that, that time, what I was feeling physically had deeper roots.

And the times He carries my illness by carrying me—those are as big a gift. Carrying my illness by carrying it away, carrying my illness by carrying me: both come from His love that desires and works for my true wholeness—not just physical but relational, not just relational but physical.

Some parts of the wholeness may come in this life, some not ‘til the next; that doesn’t change the fact that God desires and works for the health of our whole being. Nor does the fact that sometimes the path to wholeness seems at first to be leading away. Broken bones that have healed wrong may need to be re-broken. An infected wound needs to be opened and allowed to heal from the inside out.

I’d sensed God ask way back at the beginning of my illness, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6) I’d said yes, but only if He would heal me from the inside out. I didn’t want to be made physically well only to crash again because the deeper issues hadn’t been dealt with. I’d felt ashamed of that response at first, guilty about my reluctance to be set instantly on my feet and plunged back into the world full of work waiting to be done. But it was the only honest answer I could give. And now I see it is God’s heart too. He knows that the only way to truly heal is to heal from the inside out.

And He is doing it.

Over the past few days, switching medication has given me lots of opportunity to practice this piece of letting Him carry my illness. Figuring out the right dose usually means weeks of worse symptoms. But this time (dare I say it?), the process has turned from something I usually dread to something even (yes, really) enjoyable. Because I’ve felt safe. Loved. Held. I’ve been able to let Him carry the questions about the dose and the worries about how I’ll manage the upcoming retreats. I’ve been able (mostly) to let go of trying to control the process and worrying about the outcome. So when the needed dose has been less and the energy more than expected, I’ve been free to enjoy it and enjoy loving Him and others in it. And the harder moments have been made lighter by His presence.

I don’t know how the next bit of the story will unfold. I do know I have a God whose heart is always, one way or another, to bring all His people to wholeness.