“For all ministers are called to recognize the sufferings of their time in their own hearts, and make to that recognition the starting point of their service.”
— Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932–1996)
In today’s world, where the successful are marked as materially prosperous and confident souls, the wounded healer stands eternally apart. They abide by an inherently successful but bizarrely paradoxical formula: their strength is in their weakness, for their own weaknesses have become very qualification of their ministry. Their very failures – those that have been overcome and healed – have become their sole strength of credibility. Yes, the exact thing that was destined to crush the wounded healer has become the very reason they exist in their ministry. In such a way God has converted comprehensive defeat into everlasting victory.
The world needs the wounded healer type as ministers to a suffering world, to a suffering generation, to suffering individuals, as the minister him or herself suffers.
As the biblical corpus is built upon and based in many paradoxes upon enigmas within mysteries, so also is the life of the effective minister of God. They have a story of brokenness that qualifies the way to wholeness. Their mode of ministry is humility through working in their weakness, in order to redeem the Spirit’s strength for others’ access. Their way forward is via the truth – to establish authentic relationships and communication – in order to dispel many lies that might otherwise shrink their effectiveness. They identify with others’ suffering because they are quick to identify with their own suffering. The wounded healer doesn’t wallow in suffering, but they do accept it as an obvious stimulus and condition of living in this world. They have learned to work within the parameters of suffering, and they consistently find their way through it and into a manifestation of God’s glory.
Ministry for the oppressed must reach them where they truly are at. Superficial means derive superficial ends, and we cannot be satisfied to work within what is superficial for too long. No, God has lives he wants touched, and, though there is room for many different ministry types, the wounded healer has a common place in the work of God.
The wounded healer is able to help people for the precise reason they themselves have been helped. They opened up a way forward to their own healing, by the Spirit’s help, and likewise they are able to show that way to those who require healing.
Their weakness is their strength and what used to defeat them was cause for their victory. The wounded healer has accessed their own healing in order to show others that way.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.