It was a Sunday morning at the VA Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. The patients had gathered for the Sunday morning church service. It was like any other service I had attended. The preliminaries, the music, the prayers and the chaplain giving his homily of the day. Suddenly he paused as one of the patients stood to his feet and began to tell his story of so many years ago.
“We lived on a farm when I was young and had horses. One day I went out to give my horse an apple. As I put the apple near his mouth he bit my hand,” the patient said with little emotion.
“That must have hurt,” the chaplain said rather dryly. He had probably heard similar stories many times before.
“What did you do?” he queried.
“I went into my house and told my dad. As I told him I swore,” the patient paused with a far off look.
“What did your dad do?” the chaplain continued.
“He hit me for swearing.” the man said as he teared up.
“What did you do?” the chaplain continued.
“I packed my bags, left home and never looked back,” he said.
At 14 years of age this man left home, never to return physically; never to be reconciled to his dad; never to bring closure to such a tragic event in his life. Yet he never really left. That event left such an indelible scar in his soul that it locked him a memory, sealing his life with hurt, bitterness, unforgiveness and a deep, unresolved longing.
James 5:15 says that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him”. Why does James place forgiveness in the context of healing? Because a deeply wounded soul can seep its way through our emotional defenses and find expression in sickness and dis-ease.
The sin referred to is often not in the context of lifestyle choices. It is more in not being able to live holistically and in his case, to find reconciliation with his father who deeply wounded his soul.
This is where the community of faith, living in holistic ways, can help/should help others to find healing, even at the level of deep human hurts. Prayer, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation should be (though not always is) the hallmarks of a healthy Christian community.
His story could be my story; it could be your story. May we never forget the paths of healing from our own woundedness that we may help others to find their own places of healing.
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.” St. Francis of Assisi.