The wisdom of our wounds - part one...

Call it a sign of the times, a tragedy of postmodernism or social amnesia: whatever it is, it is clear that the contemporary church isn't helping people learn the "wisdom of their wounds" any more. Maybe this is one of the unintentional consequences of living in an age totally bewildered with consumption and bottom-line thinking. It could even be that many of our congregations have become so infected with dominant culture values that we don't even know how to reflect on the upside down truths of Christ and his kingdom.

+ I know that I have been yelled at and dismissed by church folk over the years for suggesting there is spiritual wisdom in Paul's admonition: God works good for all those who love God. Not that all things are good - which many people hear in these words - and certainly not that God causes evil/bad things to happen so that we will learn something - too cruel for the font of grace. But, rather, we are invited to deepen God's image within and among us from even the tragedies of our lives so that God's loving presence can grow stronger. Is there such a backlash against God - or how God has been portrayed over the years - that many "do not have ears to hear?"

+ My old monastic friends spoke of this truth as the Paschal Mystery: not that God caused Good Friday to be a necessity, but rather that God can take even the crucifixion and bring a blessing out of it on Easter and Pentecost. God's eternal YES is stronger than the perpetual NO of the world - but you have to be looking for it - you have to have "eyes to see" - and eyes to see the paschal mystery at work is very counter-cultural.

So where did this part of our teaching ministry go? Why has it almost disappeared? How come we aren't regularly teaching folk the wisdom of our wounds? Too painful? Too challenging? What's going on? This song gets it better than most...

Comments

SGF said…
We would rather that pain just go away, be solved or explained! It's the salvational fantasy that blocks understanding....I think it is the Care versus Cure mentality. We would rather something go away or be fixed (CURE)than to honor the mysteries of life and allow them to deepen our understanding (CARE). Of course this idea is central to Thomas Moore's writing..."The act of entering into the mysteries of the soul, without sentimentality or pessimism, encourges life to blossom forth according to it's own designs and and with its own unpredicable beauty." James, maybe I am wrong but the kind of teaching you are talking about requires...."not solving the puzzles of life but the opposite, it is an appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries that blend light and darkness into the grandeur of what human life and culture can be." People would rather assume responsibilty for something awful in life (such as the death of a spouse) than to accept the mystery of it all. Or they would rather take a pill to feel happy than to understand the underlying issues at work in their lives. The salvational fantasy leads people away from depth and knowledge! We need to combine the mind with the body and spirituality to find true depth and meaning for ourselves! "Spiritual teaching has to acknowledge that life is shaped by both pain and plaesure, success and failure. Life lived soulfully is not without monents of darkness and periods of foolishness. Dropping the salvational fantasy frees us up to the possibility of sekf-knowledge and self-acceptance, which are the very foundation of soul." The instrument to make this wisdom happen is imagination.....you can't teach imagination but you can inspire people to use it and see its value bridging the gap between mind, body and spirit!
RJ said…
Wow... that is so true, my man. What I am going to suggest re: the wisdom of our wounds, is a way to go deeper and learn with them without trying to cure them or send them away. And you are so right: you can't teach imagination, but you can evoke and nourish it, yes?
Anonymous said…
So how does one get to that point? When the wounds are great and create a block of the spirit or the grief of losing a loved one is so overwhelming all there seems to be is numbness in the soul. How do you begin to teach this and put it in a way that is tangible so people will understand and those who are broken heal?
RJ said…
Well, annonymous, that is exactly the challenge that I am going to tackle in my post tomorrow.

The short hand version has to do with: a) breaking the truth of the paschal mystery down into practices (naming the pain; claiming the real feelings of that pain/wound;turning the pain upside down (doing the opposite of your feelings); and practicing this counter-cultural commitment in community. And b)learning to rest in the essence of God's love (which is a whole OTHER spiritual practice.)

But both of these practices - learning the wisdom of our wounds and resting in God's grace - involve cultivating new habits (about 6-8 weeks before they feel natural) and serendipity. Does that make sense?

Let's see what tomorrow's post brings: maybe insight? maybe more questions? Thanks for writing.
RJ said…
One more thing, too, there is a natural life for grief that is unique to each person and each love, yes? In addition to all the very good material re: stages of grief - which are evolving truths not a hierarchy of "steps" - the grief and shock you are describing can't be cured or taken away; it has to be embraced. Sharing it can help - and learning how to bring it into the grace of God helps, too - but for deep grief there is also simply the function of time and living into it as well.
Black Pete said…
Many years ago, I read that among North American Aboriginal people, a newly-widowed woman would set her tipi outside the village circle. The people would keep an eye out for her (as she was beyond the walls of defence), see that she had food, firewood, water.

Each time the village moved, as the people were nomadic, her tipi would be set a little closer to the village circle, until, over about a year's seasons cycle, her lodge would be back among those of everyone else.

The wisdom of this arrangement is recognition of the need for privacy in grief, with the corresponding recognition of the need to be back among one's circle of care and community after a time.
RJ said…
Thank you, Pete, I will use those words to close this Sunday's message.

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