Sharing Our Wounds
By Sarah Summers Granger
I couldn’t pray, couldn’t even lift my head. I sat on the floor of the dark empty chapel, weeping silently before the tabernacle. No words, no thoughts, nothing but the bone breaking sadness in my soul filled my mind. I felt beaten, broken, crushed. After years of suffering, my eight year marriage – my life as I knew it – had come to an end. Alone and afraid, I faced raising my three beautiful children by myself. All of my efforts, all of my prayers for salvation, all of my sin, all of my mistakes weighed on me – and in the pain there was only confusion. I sat a few feet from the tabernacle, but I couldn’t reach out to God. I didn’t know what to say, how to pray, what to ask for, how to beg for mercy. “Suffering conceals the face of Christ,” I had read in Salvifici Doloris, and it was true. My wounds ached and bled and I sat on the floor of the chapel, and wondered how to even start to relate to God again. In the dim light of the red candle, I looked up just enough to see the feet of Christ on the Crucifix. Bloody feet. Broken feet. Agony in shattered bones and torn flesh, holding up the weight of His tattered body. Christ hung suffering on His cross. Suffering guiltlessly for my sins. I struggled with the weight of my sufferings, my cross, my guilt and sin. We suffered together. Mercy was there, palpable. I related to His brokenness and pain. That was my start t the foot of the cross, the opening in my heart to seek a real relationship with Jesus and find Him, eventually, again.
In my suffering I was drawn to the Cross, consoled by Christ’s wounds so visible in the crucifix. Over time, healing came. Consoled and strengthened by sharing my woundedness with Jesus, I was called to serve as a foreign missionary with my children. Before my divorce I made a great effort while in ministry to hide my past sins, my weaknesses, my brokenness. I wanted to witness to Christ’s saving power, and felt that my wounds were an embarrassment, not only to me but to the Gospel. Now, as a single mother with three children, a great deal of my pain was obvious to all. My marriage had failed. I had suffered greatly. I was still hurt. There was no hiding my situation. I struggled with serving God with such embarrassing, apparent wounds. The Church granted me an annulment, which helped me to find peace, but I was still scarred, damaged, imperfect, and going out to serve the Lord anyway.
What I discovered as a deeply wounded servant of Christ shocked me. Rather than being repelled by my “failure,” I found, more than ever, that other damaged people came to me for prayer and looking for hope. In the town in Mexico where I lived, hurting families abounded. I feared my own broken family would be a hindrance to our ministry, but while I’m sure some people were put off by my past, countless more wanted to know how I had found joy in the midst of my brokenness. Jesus said, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32
My sickness, my sin, my complete lack of self-gained righteousness allowed me to confidently point others to my own amazing Physician. Jesus’ saving power in my life was as obvious as my wounds, and instead of causing others to doubt His power, it gave them hope that their own wounds could be healed. I became quick to share my suffering with others in pain. I was reminded of St. Paul’s words, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Gal. 6:14 My testimony was simply that I had failed, but Christ had redeemed my suffering through His own, through His cross. The power of the Cross is unparalleled, and I boasted of it constantly.
It still seemed strange to me that my woundedness had become such a tool for the spread of the Gospel, until one day when I was visiting the chapel next to the Cathedral of the Saltillo Diocese where we served. There, above the altar, hangs one of the most gruesome depictions of the crucifixion that I have ever seen. I love this crucifix. Jesus is bleeding and bruised. Open wounds all over his body reveal torn muscle and bare bone. His suffering is almost too much to look at. Almost. For when we look, it changes our lives. When the crucifix was brought over to the Diocese hundreds of years ago, thousands of natives instantly converted. It was there at the foot of the cross that I realized, the real suffering of Christ drew them, draws us, to the truth of the Gospel: We all suffer. We have a God who suffers with us, who saves us. Suffering, wounds, scars – they are all redemptive.
If we are to be like Christ, we cannot hide our own suffering and weakness. Just as Jesus hung on a cross for all to see, we are called to “boast of the cross of Our Lord,” even, especially, the crosses in our own lives. When we share Christ’s saving grace in our own woundedness, it draws the wounded of the world to Him.