…A thorn in the flesh was given to me… And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7,9
Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others. The real question is not “What can we offer each other?” but “Who can we be for each other. ~Henri Nouwen
Many of us spend most of our time denying what most of us know about all of us — we are all broken people. We live in a culture where folks are quite expert at impression management. We do our best to control how others see us. We dare not let anyone see our true selves. So we project a hologram image of what we want folks to see and believe about us. Chief among our projections is strength and competence. But God is not as interested in using our strengths as He is our weakness. People may not be able to relate to our strengths, but they can relate to our weaknesses.
God specializes in working through the least of us. That has always been God’s way. When God wanted to start a nation, he didn’t use a young man. He used 99-year-old Abraham.
When He wanted to deliver His people out of slavery, He didn’t use a strong man. He used a babe in a basket.
When He wanted those people to conquer Canaan, He didn’t use a George Patton. He used a very insecure Joshua.
When He wanted to defeat a giant named Goliath, He didn’t use a Hulk Hogan as His champion. He used a teenage shepherd boy named David.
When He wanted to prepare the way for the coming Savior of the world, He didn’t use a theologian from a seminary. He used an orphaned preacher named John.
When he wanted to bring His Son into the world, He used a little teenage girl and a feed trough.
When He wanted to choose His leadership team for His ministry, He used semi-literate peasants.
And when He wanted to launch His church, He used a rag-tag group of quitters with no budget and no building.
It’s in human weakness that God shows how strong He is!
Own your thorns. The reality is there are no people without thorns, there are just some thorny people in denial. But everybody has thorns. We need the courage to get real about our thorns – no hiding, no pretending.
People who know you well will not be shocked. They will not say, “You have a thorn? I had no idea, I’m shocked and appalled.” They’re more likely to say, “I know you have a thorn. I know about thorns in you you don’t even know you have yet. And I love you anyway. And I’ve got some thorns too.”
Embrace your thorns, your brokenness, and then give that broken-self away to others in love.
We have been graced so that we can grace others. Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a hand-shake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life…all of our life.
I am learning that the best I can offer my brothers and sisters is not wise counsel, but rather my open heart and my full attention to the pain throbbing in their souls. That is another way of describing grace.
But what if I’m not addressing my own wounds appropriately?
Part of what it means to be emotionally intelligent is to be self-aware. Being self-aware is not just knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Those are important, but that is not all “self-aware” means. It means that I am fully aware of how I affect those around me; that I am cognizant of how my moods, emotions, and even my wounds are impacting the souls around me.
I have wondered if people carrying oozing soul-wounds are blind to the fact that they are living out of that wound in ways harmful to others. When you are in deep pain, the slightest touch is excruciating. Therefore, hearing the truth about your life and your performance are often taken very personally and then reacted to in either a fight or a flight strategy.
Unaddressed soul-wounds distort our perception of reality: “People are out to get me. People don’t care. People are dangerous. People can’t be trusted. People are_________! People will heal me. People will love me.” Thus, people are here for me and my wound.
The truth is much harm falls from the lips of wounded Christians into the souls of others because they lack the perspective and discernment that comes with a steady dose of three things:
- Truth: I have a thorn.
- Grace: I am radically accepted by God and He is ever-present with me.
- Time: God rarely gets in a hurry about anything. If He did the cross would have happened in Genesis 4.
Heavy doses of each element will bring about soul-healing. Too much of a single part of that triumvirate will cause a false positive of soul-wellness. Not everyone trying to help others is well enough in their own right to be of any lasting assistance.
It’s one thing to be a wounded healer and another thing to be a wounded warrior. Serving others from our woundedness is radically different than serving others for our woundedness. The first serves out of embracing their wound and loving others tenderly, the latter helps others in order to assuage the undressed wound still festering in their own soul. One brings healing and life, the other spreads thorns and germs.
God, help me to love others so that, even though I am weak, You can squeeze the balm of Gilead out through the cracks in my soul to bring healing to the hurting. Amen.