Offering the space for healing

Last night as I was driving my car, I pulled over to let in someone I knew – a particularly broken and vulnerable person, it was. As we were travelling along, I noticed that all of a sudden, my passenger was the driver, and I was the passenger! I decided to stay calm and just let him drive. But then he turned the steering wheel sharply, and we spun around and around, out of control on the road.

 I demanded that I take over the driving, and I explained that even though we didn’t hit anyone or anything, it was an incredibly dangerous thing to do. But my friend wouldn’t let me drive, and so I made him get out of the car. He tried to get back in, so I locked the doors.

But my friend had found a way to open the doors from the outside, using a pair of scissors to prise a special knob on the bonnet. The locks were coming up, and I tried to get the car going again, but my fingers wouldn’t work and I couldn’t turn the key. The locks kept coming up, and he was getting back into the car.

That’s when I woke up. I looked at the clock on my phone – it was past 9am, on a Monday. I trudged out of bed, feeling stale and heavy.

I seem always to be drawn to broken people – to outcasts – and my impulse is to welcome them into whatever secure and loving place I have found. I too know what it’s like to be an outcast. This is a great pain in my life, and it’s from this place that I invite others. So it’s from my own woundedness that I have found my great gift for others. I see enormous hope in this.

The dream got me thinking about the many broken people in my life – wounded people who have been rejected many times over. I have been realising lately that whenever we accept people who have been rejected, or welcome people who have been outcasts, we invite all of their brokenness through the door as well. This is the same for all of us, because we are all broken, in some way.

When brokenness is ‘on the inside’ of our families, churches and communities, two things can happen:

  • the brokenness can be healed; or
  • the brokenness can cause destruction to the place it has been invited into.

For healing to occur, there needs to be ‘healing facilitators’. Originally I wrote ‘healers’ – until Dave pointed out that it is not us who do the healing, but God, often through us. Dave has a point.

I need to say from the outset that just as we are all broken, we can all be facilitators of healing. In fact, like me, it’s often from our place of brokenness that we find we can help extend the most opportunity for healing!

A ‘healing facilitator’ is not a special category of person. We all have the potential to invite healing in our different ways: it may be the way we smile or tell a joke that sets an anxious person at ease, or it could be the way we cook at meal to be shared, or the way we listen. Through God, we all have the potential to offer a space where healing might take place.

This act of ‘offering a space for healing’ is far from effortless, and none of us have an unlimited capacity to do it. Even when the glint of God is in our eye, or the love of God is mixed into our food, or when Christ is present in the listening of our ears, there is only so much that one person can give, right?

On top of that, most of us ‘healing facilitators’ are also tending to our own wounds. This further reduces our capacity to facilitate healing.

As a community – whether church or otherwise – we have great capacity to invite brokenness within, and to provide the space for healing to take place. This is the essence of the gospel. As Jesus’ hands and feet, on earth, we take on his healing work.

And yet even as a God-filled community, our capacity to do this is finite. There can be a point where we have invited too much brokenness inside, and we find that we no longer have the capacity to smile, or cook, or listen. Sitting with this brokenness, and dealing with its consequences, takes too much from us, and we are depleted. At this point, the brokenness can be destructive.

Like in my dream, the brokenness can take over the car we are driving, and cause great danger for the passengers and others. We may want to shut out the wounded person – to un-invite them. They may keep wanting to come back in and cause more destruction, or they may leave and never be seen again, feeling more rejected than ever.

What a terrible situation.

And so the answer is not much of an answer, because it involves walking a fine line, with only wisdom and discernment to help us balance. We must somehow discern how much brokenness our community can sit with, so that healing might be possible.

This is our question, and we sit with it in the knowledge that we are all broken, and we can all offer space for healing.