15 January 2009
Today marks 15 months and one day since my accident. The healing has come to the point that people I meet for the first time hardly notice, or if they do, don’t comment on it. Yet I’m surprised when people who followed our African Adventure, ask how my arm is, and I remember, oh, I was once injured, but now I’m better.
It’s a temptation to tell new people about the accident, to elicit their sympathy, to tell of my miraculous healing, the witch that cursed me, and the months between, when God was silent. If I do tell this story, it should be told to give Glory to God, but more often than I would like to admit, I tell it to explains something about the way I am, or who I’ve become, or because I gain some power in telling the story of my hurt.
Today also day marks my sixth at Wellspring United Methodist Church, and if there is one thing I have learned about Wellspringers, it is that they are a resilient lot. Webster defines resilience: as something that is “capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture” or having the qualities that tend to “recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” But sometimes this ability to recover gets stuck, or lost in the stories we tell. It is almost like a person or institution makes a conscience choice not to recover from or adjust easily, but chooses to stay in the painful moment.
Caroline Myss, author and medical intuitive , tells a story about having lunch with a woman when a male colleague stops by. She introduces him, and together they chat until he discovers they share a common interest. He invites her friend to a workshop hosted by organization that specializes in their shared interest. As Ms. Myss tells the story, her friend replies, “I couldn’t possibility attend on that day because I have a support group meeting for (and she describes a terrible event that happened in her childhood and how she never misses that meeting of it victims).
“Why did you feel the need to tell him all that?” Ms Myss asks, “he was only asking if you would like to attend the workshop.” She uses that story to illustrate a behavior she calls Woundology. Woundology is about using the wounds — the hurts, traumas, or unfortunate events of the past, to manipulate, elicit sympathy, compassion, or to gain a measure of power and/or authority in a situation.
I sometimes want to ask Wellspringers, “Why did you just tell me that story?” I want to learn the interesting history of Wellspring, but I hear so many sad stories, or ones with a heavy pause, full of weighted implications. I keep thinking that if I just listen long enough, at some point I will hear the last of these sad stories, and more of the ones that celebrate our history. I am still waiting.
I wonder, is Wellspring paralyzed by its past wounds? Is it longing for a past that never was, hoping for a future that can never be? Once time, when Jesus was near a place called the Sheep Gate pool, where the NIV says “a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed,” He saw an invalid who had been that way for a long time and asked, “Do you want to get well?”
I have a wonderful chiropractor in Austin, Dr. Rosanne Butera, who has treated me since before I was a pastor. I’ve been through so much with her, and while we were in Africa, she was treated for breast cancer. There is some regret I feel, for not being there to pastor her through that time of need. Now that we are back and both healed, we can exchange knowing glances of having been to the edge of darkness and returned. Dr. Butera says I need to make friends with my shoulder. It was such an intuitive thing to say. She realized my shoulder had become disconnected from my –I don’t know what to call it—but I wasn’t feeling any love for that which had caused me so much pain. I don’t know if she was talking about forgiveness, but this feeling I have for my shoulder, has many of the same qualities that unforgiveness. It seems that when we finally reconnect to that which has caused us so much pain, the hurt stops hurting, and we don’t feel compelled to tell its story again.
Yesterday, I connected with an old friend, one whom I had not seen in many years. This friend was on the edge of a bad situation and though we had not conflicted directly, there was collateral damage. It wasn’t that I had left on bad terms, I just left, and the pain of that parting haunted me, kept me awake at night sometimes wondering what part I had played in those wounds and how I could avoid it in the future. I thought if I could only think through what had happened, understand what I had contributed to it, what I had not, that understanding would be mine; it would lose its power over me. So far that wasn’t working, and in the words of Dr. Butera, I needed to make friends, so I reached out, and it was great to reconnect, to remember all that was good in that friendship, and to allude, but not rehash those final days and say, I’m so sorry things ended that way, and can we start again?
Someone much wiser than me once said that the key to this life comes in three phrases: Please, Thank you, and I’m sorry. Please—shows our need of interdependence, that we need something from each other; Thank You—shows our gratitude for that relationship and what it provides; I’m Sorry—reconnects or restores that relationship, when things get broken.
Jesus asked “Do you want to be made well?” before he healed, because even Jesus couldn’t heal if people didn’t want to be, if they would rather tell their story one more time. Do you want to be made well?
So my advice to myself is
1) Stop telling the sad story so often
2) Start saying I’m sorry more often
3) Make friends with what wounded you.
Amen (which means So be it!)
 I did not provide a link to all the blogs that detail the accident, in the spirit of not telling my sad story again.