The Wounded Healer
What does it mean to become a wounded healer?
To respond as Jesus did, with compassion and discernment to the vast and diverse needs of society and man's inhumanity to man is our highest calling. To reach into the messiness of relationships and risk getting our hands dirty in the process is a work of grace that calls us to become the best version of ourselves. The Amy Grant song that says of her that she had her father’s eyes strikes a chord with me. In this superficial world what would it be like if I had my Father's eyes? If I see the drunk on the streets with the eyes of Jesus, what do I see? How do I respond? How do I respond to the business man, the housewife? In this essay I want to explore how that question demands an answer of me again, today, in this season in my life.
If we have the answers why do we shy away from the hard questions? Perhaps we have not trained our people in the practicalities of real life while we have debated the pre millennium or post millennium transportation of the church. Jesus was not afraid to be seen with the disenfranchised and dysfunctional. He did this by leading by example healing the body, soul and spirit of man. He allowed His vulnerability to show so that the excellency of the power of God, the compassion of the suffering servant and the comfort of the Holy Spirit might be seen to manifest in Him. Then He calls us into the adventure of doing likewise. We embody our prayers when weembrace the idea of Jesus reaching out with no hands but our hands.
As children of the living God, we, more than any other people group have the full truth. We are the ones who can heal a broken heart or restore a wounded soul. I trained as a counsellor in Londonderry where the statistics for mental health issues are among the highest in Ireland. Suicide separation,depression marriage break up and all the other related interpersonal struggles are no longer the exception they are the norm. That normality does not even begin to look at the intergenerational transmission of the effects of over 30 years of trauma as a country and as individuals.
If our whole being is involved in the internal dynamic process between our physical psychological social and spiritual self and the world as we interact with it. Perhaps the whole body of Christ needs to be a little more aware and sensitive to the needs of individuals as well as the corporate health of the body of Christ, the family of God. I belong to a church plant that has been birthed out of a mother church approximately 6 miles away, a well established ministry that attempts to address a lot of the Biopsychosociospiritual model of care. The church has the usual prayer ministry that is prevalent in evangelical independent churches in the 21st century but we also have intercessary prayer team. That are also trained in various expressions of compassion orientated ministry.
One particularly effective aspect of my view of a wounded healer is almost like spiritual triage nurses, overseeing our duty of care, prayerfully ensuring the safety of the person presenting with a need, and accessing the best help available for them. This may mean involving secular agencies to help and support and there is a system in place for crisis referral alongside intentionally good relationships with these agencies.
Integrating them into a support network of believers might possibly only be the beginning of a process of unravelling a complex problem situation. We need to be proactive in helping with practical needs that arise from addiction or the life choices that can manifest alongside poor mental health. From the perspective of Maslow's hierarchy of need, or how Jesus himself ministered this safety net is foundational before we can move to looking at the triggers and vulnerabilities that perpetuate the situation and the relationship dynamics. I have recently been involved in helping to facilitate a small group for the community teaching on building resilience. My particular remit was to teach resilient relationships. The positive feedback has actually made me consider the provision of more of this type of service incorporating the church and including the wider community. Addressing the need for the church to bring the truth of the interface with scripture and the sciences and its positve benifits to society. In practise this can also work as an informal assessment type structure. Needs can be noticed, highlighted to the appropriate branch of ministry and then incorporated into the referral structure mentioned previously.
My church plant of 100 or more people has enough expertise in every one of the aspects necessary to heal a person's body soul and spirit and are available for me to call on. Building relationships and getting to know what is available helps integrate the individual into the life of a body of believers that will nurture and grow around them and become a powerful healing force. The church of Jesus Christ has the capacity to be that force for good and have been called to more than can be offered by the world systems, to be wounded healers. To fill in the gaps that society cannot help with. I believe there are some things that only the body of Jesus Christ living and breathing in this world can supply, the real truth, not a super spiritual airy fairy hug a tree spirituality but a relationship with Saviour who has gone before us as our wounded healer. Being part of a community of people living and working and serving together with a common goal, a common vision is God's plan for us. Jer 29 ;10-12 From the fall He began the process of teaching us how to restore,how to discipline, to resolve conflicts, to love and be loved and to live together in community.
Curt Thomas' fascinating book incorporates the SNAG neuroplastic triad of aerobic activity, focussed attention and novel learning with 7 keys changes the way we help others experience their crisis or problem situation. Similarily I use the acronym BASICID assessment when counselling and have discussed implementing something very similiar with my leadership. The multimodel approach is very practical and comprehensive integrating behavour, affect, sensation,imagery, cognition interpersonal relationships and drugs/biology and correlates closely with Thomas’s seven keys to healing to be known, to pay focussed atttention to our life, the influence of memories, and attachment theories alongside an integrated mind and community alongside his added dimension of sin and redemption. In my opinion this fills in the gaps God talked about in Ezekiel 22 v 30 that help the poor and needy prayerfully and practically.
Prayer ministry is not the end but can be the beginning of the Wonderfull counsellors healing process. To ask for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven and then to refuse to get our hands dirty in the clean up is the ultimate hypocrisy that Jesus accused the pharisees of. The collaborative, complementary approach recommended by Ken Yeow to take the turn in the road that leads to Curt Thomas’s higher functioning behaviour is our goal. No agency is ideal but we are in the enviable position of being able to build a lifelong loving fellowship from the ground up. We are attempting to build a community that could see the vision of the world coming for the kind of help that cannot be found outside the grace of God. Stephen Critchlow’s 5 fold response to the needs of being valued, being loved, learning to forgive, find meaning and direction and support and help would hopefully be available to wounded healers.
In conclusion Jesus clearly tells us to love and be loved and this has also to incorporate some self care, supervision and support. In our quest to heal the world we remember that Jesus ministered one to one, in groups teaching truths but also withdrew to be with His father, to replenish His own soul. In a world of self appointed experts in every field, we as the body of Christ have accepted a fragmentation of our response to a broken humanity that waters down the gospel. We have the answer, the whole answer and it is found in a holy God and His children. The family is a living organisim as it is meant to be, whole and functioning and we want to see that become a reality. As we accept what our wounded healer has done for us, we become wounded healers to others. Then we can see the vision the gospel of Jesus Christ, properly understood and embraced, potentially have a postive impact on a believer's mental health. Every aspect of the vision of Jesus for us being fulfilled in our lifetime and a legacy left for future generations to build on.
Bibliography New king James Bible
Critchlow S Dr (2016) MIndful of the Light Instant Apostle
Thomas C MD (2010) Anatomy of the Soul Tyndale house
Yeow K (2014) Personal Freedom Nelson
Amy Grant My Father’s eyes 1979