Every so often I find myself back at Paul’s words to the Corinthians where he proclaims that if he is to boast in anything it would be only in his weaknesses. To keep him from swelling with pride due to the revelations given to him, he says a thorn was given to him by God. In that wound Paul sees himself tethered to the power of Christ.
It’s perhaps an uncomfortable thought that Christ’s power would work most powerfully in those areas that we perceive to be our greatest shortcomings and sources of shame especially when so much of our time and energy is frequently expended at trying to overcome them or hide them from ourselves or others.
I’m on the cusp of my thirtieth birthday, and I kind of expected that I’d be a bit, I don’t know, more stable or well-adjusted at this point in my life, but life remains about as (if not more) pressurized and frustrating as it felt in my early twenties. One thing I’ve learned though this past decade is that our wounds are not supposed to be ignored. Those places we feel most vulnerable are very often the places that can draw us back to the wounds of Christ and the deep well of love he has for us. My own wounds have felt to me like tethers that keep me from going too far into a life of pride or detachment – I suppose pain has a way of reminding us.
But not all is glum. Humor and pain are intimately connected, and it’s almost like humble acknowledgement of weakness can prevent one from taking himself or herself too seriously. At the end of the day, I can laugh because frankly laughter feels like a pressure valve for my pain. Joy and laughter are not independent of weakness, and the best friendships are frequently birthed out of shared sorrow.
My wounds are in some strange way tethered to Christ and his body, and so they aren’t to be ignored. And perhaps they may even offer consolation to those who also feel a sort of similar nagging pain. Henri Nouwen once wrote that “that which is most personal is most universal,” and there are few quotes which have stuck with me as much as that one. It’s a good reminder especially when it feels like our wounds put us at odds with others rather than in connection with them, but here we are wounded together.
Life has not grown easier but who even set that expectation? It’s like Gandalf once said, “there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured,” and perhaps that’s intentional.