Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sometimes Healing is Not For Our Best

Captain Kirk: Dammit, Bones, you're a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are ... If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain. (Can’t you just hear Shatner saying this in his famous, over the top, staccato style?)  -- From, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Like most of you, I have had my share of titanic spiritual and psychological struggles. Some of these battles left scars, and some of them left me with open wounds that I feel to this day. I have begged God for healing, pleaded, and even tried bargaining, but I never had anything He needed. (Go figure.) Add my unwanted personality quirk/weakness of being extremely sensitive, say, to living with melancholy or depression, and … O my. “What’s up with this, Lord? Can I get a little relief, here?”

God: No.

Monte: Can you at least give me a, ‘Not yet’?

Along the way I have learned some things about living with internal battles, weaknesses, and wounds.

To start with, I discovered that many of my weaknesses and unwanted personality traits were part and parcel with my strengths so that if I seek to rid myself of them, I would end up restricting what I do best. Subsequently, I no longer see, say, melancholy as an enemy that must be defeated but, rather, as a sparing partner who is forcing me deeper into my soul, as well as to rely more completely upon the God of grace and love. And this led me to another realization.

Sometimes, healing is not for our best. Sometimes Jacob is going to live out his days with a limp and Paul is going to keep whatever that “thorn” was in his side. Sometimes the malady is our chief source of wisdom, humility, and many of our most valued strengths. Kirk was right. In some cases, if we lose the pain, we lose part of our selves.

If you came to me today and told me that you could make it so that all my wounds would be healed, cause my melancholy and depression to vanish forever, and free me from my unwanted personality traits, but that, in return for my deliverance, I had to give up all the good and all the graces that have come to me through these struggles, I would choose to retain these weaknesses and maladies. Through my struggles, my soul has grown with a greater awareness of and empathy for the pain and struggle of others, a keener understanding of my strengths and limitations, the value of sharing souls with a cherished friend, and the joy of serving and caring for others. So. No deal. No thank-you.

I am not advocating masochism. I am simply suggesting there are sometimes larger issues at stake, so I need to be careful about wanting to be delivered where God wants me to be transformed.

John Adams and Abraham Lincoln suffered with melancholy and depression, as did Winston Churchill: would they have been the men they were, achieved the heights of successes that they did, had they been “healed”? Would Psalm 42, or CS Lewis’ “A Grief Observed,” or the homilies and poetry of John Donne been written had these men not wrestled with despair? The great American Industrialist John D. Rockefeller suffered with depression: what about his accomplishments without the soul created by his suffering? My experience says, no, they would not have had the successes they achieved without having the internal battles they waged.

Something else I have learned about living with such battles:

Everybody has been shot.
Do you remember this scene from the movie Black Hawk Down, the story of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 (the locals call it the Day of the Rangers), when our troops were ambushed while seeking to capture a Somali warlord? This exchange takes place in the middle of a firefight.

McKnight (Tom Sizemore): You, get up there and drive!
Othic (Kent Linville): But I’m shot Colonel!
McKnight: Everybody’s shot!

Most people have been shot at least once or twice. Wounds, issues, and struggles can easily make us self-centered. You’re not the only one dealing with such things, so watch out for the attitude my-pain-sets-me-apart as someone who warrants a pass on caring for others or treating people with dignity, grace, and love, or ceasing to be and do all that God has called you to.

While I am mindful of the reality that some people’s wounds require them to get off the firing line and into a hospital, most of us need to saddle up and do what is required. After all, that never ending internal battle, those wounds, and your “weaknesses” have actually given you strengths, wisdom, and graces that your fellow-knights desperately need for waging their battles. Anyway, it is amazing how much the pain often subsides when you are serving others and fighting for a cause greater than yourself.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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