“Image of the Wounded Healer”

wounde-healer-coverIn Henri Nouwen’s fine little book on “ministry,” he writes,

“Maybe our fragmented life experiences combined with our sense of urgency do not allow for a ‘handbook for ministers.’ However, in the middle of all fragmentation one image slowly arose as the focus of all considerations: the image of the wounded healer… For the minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his time in his own heart and make that recognition the starting point of his service. Whether he tries to enter into a dislocated world, relate to a convulsive generation, or speak to a dying man, his service will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which he speaks.”


Then he says this:

“Nothing can be written about ministry without a deeper understanding of the ways in which the minister can make his own wounds available as a source of healing.”

Ministry is not meant merely for the superstar or the self-referenced expert; ministry is what we do as persons in relation. Nouwen, as a genius born of anguish, was insightful to recognize the value of woundedness. In this one sentence he encourages us to a deeper understanding of the ways we can make our own wounds available as a source of healing.

This means of course that we not run from them, or hide them, or try prematurely to heal them – especially those wounds that may linger a lifetime.

This means of course that we befriend them, understand them, and be open about them as a conduit of healing for others.

  • How very hard this is for people like me, who sincerely want to impress, demonstrate competence, and conceal any ugliness, injury, or weakness.
  • How very freeing it is to give that all up, to be honest with oneself, others, and the One who knows us so thoroughly anyways.
  • How very costly it is to search for a deeper understanding of the ways in which we can make our wounds available – not merely for others to gawk at in some maudlin self confession – but as a source of healing.

This resonates with what the Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 12:8-10:

“… I pleaded with the Lord to take this thorn in my  flesh away from me. But He said to me,

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

There is no doubt that it is a matter of trust to rely on God’s grace to be sufficient: enough to endure, enough to thrive, enough to make a life. I am not suggesting any short cuts to get past the wound, for as in Paul’s case, he lived with his weaknesses/wounds all his life – and made them available as a source of healing for others – namely – that others would see Christ’s power at work through the very weaknesses from which we wince.

Let us pray,

Lord, since You are present and only ever ready to act on Your will,
Continue Your great work of making me more like Your Son:
   Continue to give me insight to see the sufficiency of Your grace
   Continue to help me recognize the sufferings of this time in my own heart
   Continue to fortify me to make this the starting point of any service
   Continue to give me compassion for this dislocated world and convulsive generation
   Continue to give me understanding for the ways in which I can make my wounds available
   Continue to give me courage to pay the price to search for deeper understanding
   Continue to give me freedom to give up the cover up of my fragmentations
   Continue to give me enough strength to not wince from my weaknesses
   Continue to give me wisdom as to how my wounds may be a source of healing for others
   For it is by Jesus’ own name and example that I ask.

About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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