The Power of our Wounds

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a blog written by Jennifer Lynn

We don’t really leap for joy at the thought of being wounded. The idea of having been hurt doesn’t exactly give us warm fuzzy feelings. It’s actually in our human nature to run or panic at the sight of it. It’s that “fight or flight” mechanism that most of us are instilled with at birth to avoid even the possibility of pain or hardship, at whatever the cost. Which is why members of our Armed Forces, Police, Firefighters and First Responders are hailed as heroes. When a disaster occurs, they are trained to run towards it, while everyone is running from it. That very selfless act alone seems to defy nature. And they deserve every bit of recognition and respect because of it.

Even our sports heroes give 100% knowing their is a really good chance of injury at some point. Most sports have that risk. (Some more than others of course.) Can you imagine if legends like Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky quit every time they got hit or knocked down? Or if they became bench warmers near the beginning of their careers because they didn’t want to risk getting hurt again? They wouldn’t be legends! They were so passionate about what they did that they were all willing to take the risk of getting injured all over again if it meant playing the game that they loved. 

Even all these years later, these legendary players are sought after all over the world to either coach, give advice or inspirational speeches to the next generation. People read their books and listen to what they have to say. And not just about sports. About life. The skills that they had came at a price. Not because they had it easy or never suffered. It was the difficulties, the hard times and their wounds (on and off “the court”) that made them great! It’s what gives their words weight.

Or take a real hero like Harriett Tubman. A leader in the Underground Railroad who escaped slavery and travelled over 100 miles to freedom! You’d think that would be enough for her but nope! She went back. Back to the hell that she escaped from to rescue others. She knew the routes to take and what to avoid because she had been there herself. Because of that she was able to rescue hundreds of slaves and bring them to freedom as well! Now there’s a woman who knew the power in her wounds and used it in the most remarkable way! 

I read a quote a couple weeks ago that got me thinking about this exact thing.

“Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve. Physician, draw back.”~Thornton Wilder

While we desperately need a Doctor to help keep us physically healthy, this is not what he is referring to. He’s talking about our emotional and mental wounds. Our past. Our mistakes. Our regrets. The times we stumbled or fallen. It is often times the very thing that we don’t want to talk about that is exactly what someone else needs to hear. It’s that difficulty that we thought would be the end of us, that could very well lead to someone else’s freedom. After all, how do you help someone else navigate their way through hell if you yourself have never been there?

I knew a woman years ago that made the choice to have an abortion. At the time she was wanting to go back to school and the pregnancy was most definitely unplanned. She had worked so hard to even get to this point of being able to continue her education at all. After much agonizing thought she made the painful decision to terminate her pregnancy. It was a decision that she never thought in a million years she would ever be faced with having to make. And because of the fear of shame and being ostracized was so overwhelming, it seemed like it was the only thing that made sense to her at the time. Many years later, she found herself working at a clinic where girls would come to talk to a doctor to get referrals for abortions. She was given the opportunity to have so many great talks with the young moms that walked through the door. The words that she spoke carried weight because she had been right where they were at in that moment. She was able to take something very painful and turn it around for something good to help others. And the fact that she had been where those girls were, gave the words that she spoke meaning. It gave her words the weight, conviction and empathy needed to have those discussions with the young moms in that clinic.

Recently, I was opening up for a local charity event. I was able to sing four of my own songs. Most of the songs I had written while going through something very difficult.  (Which is usually the case. The best songs are written in the trenches.) After the show was over, my mom was driving me and one of her friends home. My mom and her friend were chatting away while I just laid in the front seat listening, trying to relax and wind down after a long night of meeting lots of people. Her friend, who was sitting in the back seat, leaned forward and said, “I don’t know how you songwriters do it, write the way you do that make people experience so much emotion.” Without even thinking about it, I muttered back, “We go through hell, then write about it.” 

So, to repeat what I already stated above (because it bear’s repeating): how do you help someone else navigate their way through hell if you yourself have never been there?

The short answer is, you can’t. It’s impossible. Even God had to figure out some way to become like one of us (being fully God AND fully man). He needed to be able to relate to us on our level. To feel what we feel. To have the full human experience (while still being fully God) in order to show us the way BACK into relationship with Himself. He went through every kind of hell you can imagine so that He could come back and say, “I know what you’re going through because I’ve been there too. I know what it’s like to feel pain, to feel betrayed, angry, frustrated, hurt, hungry, tempted…” 

As a follower of Christ, if I am to be like Him, which we’re all called to be, then part of that journey is going through hard times. (Jesus said we would experience difficulties anyway so there’s no point in trying to avoid it then is there?) The stumbling, the temptations, the messes, the betrayals, the hurt…He is able to empathize with us and show us the way out because He experienced it. And likewise, if we are to help others who are wounded on this journey, whether they believe the same as us or not, we too have to draw from our own wounds in order to serve others. 

If I go to hear someone speak, I don’t really want to hear about how you’ve never messed up or how perfect your life has been  (Or at least the perfect life that you project for others to see.) You know who wants to listen to someone like that? Absolutely no one! I want to hear about everything you had to over come to get here. I want to hear about the times you wanted to quit but didn’t. Or maybe you did quit but then you got back up and tried again. I want to hear about your flaws and sins and setbacks. I want to hear about all the times you broke down sobbing because you felt hopeless. That’s where your power is. 

The part of your story that isn’t pretty. It’s what gives your words weight. It’s what makes people perk up and pay attention and say, “I’m going through that same thing, show me how to make it out alive like you did!”  And you’ll be able to show them every twist and turn, every nook and cranny of that hellish place, because you knew it all too well when you yourself were there for what seemed like an eternity. Celebrate when you make it through to the other side. But understand that while that moment marks a personal victory for you, that your journey is far from over. There are others who are counting on you for their victory as well.