Frederick Buechner told the story of how his father took his own life one Saturday morning. The elder Buechner had come from a prominent family. He had excelled at college and everyone thought that he would have a brilliant and successful career. However, along came the Great Depression, and he was never able to get the job that he wanted so as to provide for his family. Finally, in utter despair, one Saturday before anyone else got up, he closed the garage door. He turned on the ignition of the car, sat in the old Chevrolet, and before anyone knew what had happened, he asphyxiated. Years later, when people asked Buechner how his father had died, he always replied, “He died of heart trouble.”
It was true in a sense. His death wounded his son. There is a prayer in the Book of Common Prayer that I came across: “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts…”
In the Bible, the thoughts of the heart are different from the thoughts of the mind. The heart is the center of personality where feelings and resolve originates. The heart is the center of our being where woundedness and healing can be found. We all stand in need of this healing. All of us.
There is no sharper pain than when someone we love wounds us, betrays us, lies to us, uses us or hurts someone we love. Older folk will remember the name Jeffrey Dahmer. He was a cold-blooded killer and sex offender. He murdered 17 boys or men from 1978-91. Just the name, Jeffrey Dahmer makes me sick. He was sentenced to life in prison, but he was murdered in prison (No one cried when he died.), as if somehow killing him could make up for the pain he had caused. Dahmer said “I know that society will never forgive me.” He was right, but I don’t have to forgive him. He didn’t hurt me.
Woundedness is personal. It’s when someone you love hurts you. If you haven’t been wounded, then you haven’t lived long enough. Yes, we are all sinners, but we have all been sinned against. We have all been wounded by someone. Oh sure, you can be hurt by the economy, the corporation, or the institution, but for the most part, our pain comes from people.
A lady in a former church came to see my one day. She had a wacky family. Wacky with a capital W. Her husband was a playboy type. Their children had problems. She came to church alone. She was shattered when she came to see me.
Her husband had been disloyal to her again but this time she had caught him with the babysitter. He was a very successful business man who seemed to care nothing about the church. She was doubly hurt that he seemed not to care. His response was that he would buy her a new car and all would be forgiven. She wanted my advice on what to do. Well, I skipped class in seminary the day they talked about how to handle that situation.
So I asked, “What kind of car?” (Just kidding)
She was deeply hurt, and a new car was not the answer to her pain.
I believe that as followers of Jesus, we are called to come, become, and overcome. We are to come to Christ, we are to become what God created us to be, and we are to overcome obstacles along the way.
There are things that happen to us that are beyond our control. When we are hurt, we certainly did not choose that. It happened to us. But our response to it is in our control.
The season of Lent would be a great time to forgive that one who has wounded you.