Monday, July 12, 2010

The wings of my dove are sheathed with silver...

To enter into solidarity with a suffering person does not mean that we have to talk with that person about our own suffering. Speaking about our own pain is seldom helpful for someone who is in pain. A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds. When we have lived through a painful depression, we can listen with great attentiveness and love to a depressed friend without mentioning our experience. Mostly it is better not to direct a suffering person's attention to ourselves. We have to trust that our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings. That is healing...

It is important to know when we can give attention and when we need attention. Often we are inclined to give, give, and give without ever asking anything in return. We may think that this is a sign of generosity or even heroism. But it might be little else than a proud attitude that says: "I don't need help from others. I only want to give." When we keep giving without receiving we burn out quickly. Only when we pay careful attention to our own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs can we be, and remain, joyful givers.

There is a time to give and a time to receive. We need equal time for both if we want to live healthy lives.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

I'm not sure how far this applies to everyone, but I find that there is a hidden cost to this kind of thing - which may be what Nouwen is talking about when he speaks of giving ourselves time to receive - which feels like a kind of weariness that I at least don't automatically associate with its source. I find myself listening eagerly at one time, and then later, maybe hours later, suddenly unaccountable very tired. We need, I think, to give God time to heal us, at least as much as we need to consciously receive from other people.

Sleep is a gift from God's Holy Spirit which we have a terrible tendency to undervalue, and undervalue at our peril. Even Jesus slept, and slept deeply, too (Mark 4:38).

"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me." (Psalm 3:5)

"In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for he grants sleep to those he loves." (Psalm 127:2)

[Title refers to Psalm 68:13]

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly, I see both Green Patches and a man breathing have recent posts based around the same text. Well worth a read, both of them.