Henri Nouwen once wrote these words, “The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them.”
Sometimes the only way out is through. Often, the way to healing is through a painful desert place. It’s not enough to think about it, it must be experienced and felt. There is a temptation not to enter in. We choose to ignore the hurt, rationalize it, and minimize our pain, weakness, and inadequacy. To begin a journey through it, to plumb the depths of our experience, seems too hard for us. And perhaps it is. It’s then we must remember that we are not alone. The Lord goes with us; even through the dark valley of the shadow of death. He is there before, behind, and beside. It’s a sacred journey.
The Lord has also provided community, the Church to walk alongside, with us. What a privilege, help, and encouragement to have companions on the journey. Even in the walking alongside, there is a decision to enter in, to walk alongside another into places of pain, knowing that you will also hurt along with them, knowing that there may not be answers to the deep questions that arise. This ministry of presence, walking alongside, listening with caring ears, is so valuable. It reflects and honors our Lord. It’s a sacred journey.
In my work as director of Safe Church Ministry, I often hear stories of painful suffering. At those times I must choose to enter into a place of pain, injustice, and suffering. How much do I allow myself to feel another’s pain? How far am I willing to go in living my own wounds? I think that may be a prerequisite, because the stories of others mingle with my own. I can choose to harden myself, refuse to enter in. Yet God has called us to trust him, to live intimately with Him even in our pain. We are also called, as the church, to bear one another’s burdens. That can’t happen unless we are willing to experience our own stories, even the painful ones. And it can’t happen unless the Lord grants us grace to enter in, and to walk alongside others. I’m so thankful for the many safe church team members, and the many others, who have answered a sacred call to be present to those who suffer, by listening and walking alongside in love.