Darkness and light. Wounded healers. Compassion. Forgiveness. These are all thoughts rolling around in my brain and echoing through my soul today.
I’ve started reading Brennan Manning’s book, Abba’s Child. You know how it is when you don’t even realize you’re thirsty, but then you take a drink of water, and it’s so cold and refreshing and satisfying and you suddenly can’t get enough water? That’s how I feel reading this book. I didn’t even realize my soul was thirsty for these truths.
In Chapter One, Manning writes, “God not only forgives and forgets our shameful deeds but even turns their darkness into light.” He goes on to write, “Christians who remain in hiding continue to live the lie. We deny the reality of our sin. In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” Referencing Henri Nouwen’s work, Manning goes on, “The Wounded Healer implies that grace and healing are communicated through the vulnerability of men and women who have been fractured and heartbroken by life.”
Really, I could read and re-read those words all day long. “If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” In order to truly light the way for others, we must be vulnerable.
Earlier in Chapter One, Manning writes of how we Christians, especially in the American church, are so hard on ourselves, that we actually have an “intense dislike” for ourselves. We beat ourselves up over our shortcomings. I think this is why so many of us within the church carefully hide what we consider to be our darkest sins, our hardest battles. Manning’s answer to this self-hatred or, at the least, self-dislike — “We learn to be gentle with ourselves by experiencing the intimate, heartfelt compassion of Jesus.”
I think it’s hard for us to experience that heartfelt compassion. Many of us believe that Jesus can be compassionate about some of our sins, but the darkest, blackest ones just make Him angry or disgusted or repelled. I read recently “Nothing about you repulses Jesus.” And the truth of that statement was like a giant spotlight on a little notion my brain has held onto forever. I didn’t even realize I’d thought it. But yeah, a little part of me thought that certain bits of me repulse Jesus. Have you ever thought that too? Well, we should stop with that thinking because it’s not true. As Brennan Manning says at the beginning of Chapter One, “God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are – not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them.” God is not repelled by us. He is compassionate – intimately compassionate – toward us.
Once we begin to experience that heartfelt compassion, that relentless tenderness of Jesus, we can begin to open up the darkest places of ourselves for His light to shine on. And as His light shines on those places, the darkness is not only exposed but transformed into light.
The more we hide our sins and weaknesses and struggles in the darkest corners of ourselves, the more we hold onto shame and self-hatred, the less light there is in us. And not only that – we are not effective in communicating grace and healing. Of course not! We haven’t fully experienced grace and healing if we’re hiding bits of ourselves in the deep, dark closets of our souls. And we cannot communicate a grace and healing we ourselves have not fully embraced.
In God’s economy the best healers, the most effective healers, are the ones who have most fully experienced healing themselves and who then communicate that compassion and grace through their own vulnerability and brokenness.
I don’t think we have to broadcast all of our sin and brokenness for all the world to see. That is not always wise. But we can begin by being real with God Himself, by letting light shine on some of our darkness and transform it to light. We can wisely choose some people with whom we can be vulnerable. We can trust that truly all things do work together for good, including our sin and weakness.
And then, as we experience the relentless compassion of our Father God, we can share that compassion and grace with others by telling them how He transforms our darkness to light.
Isn’t it exhausting to work so hard to conceal our wounds out of fear and shame? Maybe 2014 is the year that the darkness of fear and shame will be chased out by the light of compassion and forgiveness.