What to do with your wounds

It was a gorgeous Saturday morning, a few weeks back, and I was on my usual morning run. I was breathing deeply the crisp air and looking up at the brilliant red trees and missed seeing the uneven pavement stone. In less than a second, blood was dripping from both palms, my face hurt where my glasses had twisted against it, and, though I couldn’t see my knee beneath my leggings, I could tell it had felt the blow as well.

We all have wounds. It’s part of living in this creation with uneven pavement stones and dogs that bite and parents and teachers and friends who, like us, have their own wounds.

We can’t escape the wounds. But we can learn how to tend them so that even the most painful of wounds, while not chosen, can be stepping stones leading us into gift.

So how? How do we tend them so they’ll heal rather than fester? How do we care for them so a small problem doesn’t turn into a bigger one?

One thing I know: it doesn’t help to keep picking at them. And it doesn’t help to beat myself up about having them. There’s already enough of me hurting without adding more bruises.

So when the same old wound catches me off-guard and I find myself feeling like a failure, this is the question that helps me most: “I wonder how Jesus sees my wounds?” I may see them as failure, but he doesn’t. He sees them as wounds—something that I didn’t choose (though I can choose now what to do with them)—and something that I can no more heal than I could heal the weeping wounds on my hands after I fell. I can tend them—protect them, keep them clean as best I can—but I can’t make them heal. Only God can do that.

But there’s more. Not only does Jesus see my persistent triggers not as failure but as wounds, he also sees them as a place of connection.

During a recent series of challenging conversations, over and over I sensed the invitation, “Press your wounds into Mine.” The still-tender parts of my palms were a daily reminder of the invitation, and I pictured myself again and again with my palms pressed against Jesus’ palms, my eyes looking into his, into that place where I always find myself seen and known and loved. And somehow, there, the pain decreased. It turns out a lot of the pain of wounds is the loneliness beneath—the fear of failure and the rejection we’re sure will accompany it.

It’s a very intimate act, this pressing of wounds together, this mingling of blood—a bit like young girls who prick their fingers and let their blood mix in an act of declaration that they are now “blood sisters,” something deeper than friends, connected and committed forever. But Jesus is more than a playground friend. This is God who takes on flesh so he can share my blood. This is God who goes much farther than pricking his fingers to let his new-made blood mingle with mine in a symbolic act of security and belonging. No needles here, but nails piercing his wrists, a sword his side. No symbolic act but a real sealing of my security with his life.

His hands still carry the scars, an eternal invitation to press my wounds into his and there remember that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. For, mystery of mysteries, His blood now runs in my veins and mine in his.

 

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“His blood now runs in my veins and mine in his.” For further meditation on this thought, see 2 Cor 5:21, Is 53:5, 1 Cor 10:16 and 12:27, Col 1:18-20 and 2:9-13. What feelings surface as you read that statement? What might it mean for you to know this is true?

Photos (in order) by me, Brian Patrick Tagalog on Unsplash, and Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

Resurrection: what God does with your wounds

DSC_0110I’ve been so grateful since I heard, a few years ago, that Easter isn’t a single day but Eastertide, the whole fifty day stretch from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. I need fifty days, I need a whole lifetime, to explore the truth of Christ’s resurrection as it stretches backward and forward to encompass and change everything.

The words came last year as we approached Lent:

“Winds wind

blinding hair

gold around stability

bind flesh to bone

and glory to fragility.”

The Spirit-wind pauses, hovers, and glory is bound to fragility, God to our flesh, in a young woman’s womb.

The God-man baby grows and lives, suffers and dies, and it isn’t just in that one man that divinity is bound to humanity. He gathers and holds our wounds, lets them settle deep and they pierce right through, pierce his feet and his side too, and in His suffering and death He takes our sin and our pain and makes them His own, binds us to Him, our fragile flesh to Glory.

And when He rises from the dead to walk again among us, then rises through the clouds to the side of His Father, He carries us with Him, still wearing our flesh.

“Then you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

He rises still wearing His wounds, our wounds, His scarred hands outstretched in blessing as He ascends.

A fellow pilgrim shares of rolling his own wounds around in his hands like dark pearls, and of the invitation to “drop them in this open place of good and glory” which Christ’s loving presence has created.

Jesus, how do I drop them?

I see the baby again, reflexively grasping whatever touches her palm. Jesus picks her up, settles her to sleep. Her grip loosens. He’s calling me to come close, reminding me that only as I know myself loved and learn to rest in that place of grace will my need to cling ease.

I listen again to my fellow pilgrim and watch Jesus “gathering the dark pearls of my wounds (when finally I could let them go), and stringing a necklace to place lovingly, lightly, round my neck in a place of honour and beauty.” (Doug Webber)

He’s giving me a glimpse into a grace bigger than I expect. Even resurrection doesn’t erase all scars; wounds aren’t meant to disappear without a trace. Instead of discarding, grace transforms. Places of pain fill with joy, places of death, life. Places of fragility, backlit, are discovered to be thin places where the greatest glory shines through. Even wounds once festering with self can become, in His love, scars which shimmer with Him.

Two days ago I saw this necklace of grace on a woman who hid for two and a half years while she recovered from trauma; I marveled at the gracious wisdom she now speaks out of God’s presence in her own story. I’ve noticed it lately on a friend who calls weekly to listen and encourage; she understands because she remembers God meeting her in her own deep places.

This is one of the gifts of resurrection: we don’t need to fear our wounds. Those holes in your hands might become the very places Christ’s love flows through to bring life to another, those dark pearls of your scars a bright necklace speaking hope to all who see it.

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Images of the dark pearls and necklace by Doug Webber. Used with permission.

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.