A long time ago the country star Hank Williams sang, “I’ll never get out of this world alive.” He was right. He didn’t. He died young, in fact, the victim of self-abuse and overwhelming expectations, two major sources of our wounds.
Not only was Hank right about never getting out of this world alive, his songs reverberate with an unmistakable sense of wounding that made him famous. Most of us never figure out how to tweak our wounds into songs that last forever.
Most of us suffer our wounds in silence. I’m reminded of a quote I may have used before, from the great Jewish philosopher Philo, of ancient times, who said “Be kind to everyone you meet because we are all laboring under a heavy load.” Each of us can think of many people for whom this sentence was written, both those who suffer and those who are kind. We can also think of those whose self-centeredness blocks them from empathy with others, who are so blinded by their self-absorption that they cannot even muster up a sense of camaraderie when they hear the plight of others.
There’s a reason why we block and blind ourselves. To be wounded is to be vulnerable, and most of us don’t want to be vulnerable. We want to appear self-sufficient, self-reliant, and needing no one to complete our lives. We tend to look down on those who want help. Even our concept of love is frequently warped to mean the satisfaction we receive from another, not a genuine sharing.
But we want love! Hence we have no choice but to become vulnerable, wound-able, if we wish to invite love into our lives. John and Stasi Eldredge, among my favorite contemporary Christian writers, have explored the journey that men and women take through this life. They know that we all secretly want to be heroes and to be loved and that, in fact, our destiny under God is the journey to fulfillment.
Most of us spend our lives (note that phrase!) trying to erect defenses. We use the fences to keep others out of our lives, but don’t they really keep us in? Are we not wounded by our constant but feeble attempts to keep from being wounded? When you think about the complexity of our situation, you come to the conclusion that there is no escape. We are all going to suffer, we are all going to be wounded by life.
The wounds make the hero’s journey and the Moses and Miriam story and the Jesus story necessary. These tales are indispensable parts of what makes life bearable. They are essential stories for the journey through life. We carry them in our minds just as we carry little prayers and symbols in our wallets. Frodo and Robin Hood and Maid Marian, King Arthur and Guinevere and Braveheart: they’re all of a piece and it’s no wonder that Christian thinkers such as C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers and G. K. Chesterton thought that all the myths of the ages were, no less, leading up to Christ.
In the true sense of the word “need” – not like needing a cell phone or a plasma TV or any of the devices that crowd our lives these days – in the true sense of the word, we need these stories because they give meaning and sense and direction to our lives.
The new year brings a time of recollection and yearning into the future. Claim the wounds that have made you what you are and, if you dare, claim the One we believe bore our wounds and sorrows.
published 2 Jan 09