This morning I was checking out my Facebook feed and saw the above photo that intrigued me greatly. It was on the status of a clergy friend who often posts funny photos of himself photoshopped into some absurd situation or onto someone else’s body. So I was intrigued by the seriousness of the image – which I thought was a bit uncharacteristic.
When I really looked at it, I was reminded of the many times my Grandmother or Mom would tell me that I could survive anything through faith and that Jesus was bigger than any of my problems or issues. But there were definitely times in my life when my issues, problems, concerns, or drama seemed much bigger than my faith, bigger than Jesus, and definitely bigger than my understanding of God.
But I distinctly remember being told the opposite as I was growing up. “God doesn't give us more than we can handle,” I was told. Well, if that’s true, then evidently God has a higher opinion of what I can handle than I do.
Now I have to be honest about my life. I am a white, middle-class, highly educated, well employed, fairly healthy American woman. I am a Protestant in a vibrant community of faith and work in a vocation that I love and enjoy immensely. I have good health care and options for where I go to receive treatment when I am sick. I have a home that is warm and comfortable. My son is in a great school and had the ability to apply to multiple magnet schools for high school next year. I have an amazing family – my family of origin and my family of choice— and I know that I am richly blessed.
So how bad could my problems be? Right?
We all have secret pain. We all have brokenness. We all have wounds that do not fully heal despite all the salve we put on them. The truth is that no matter our circumstances in life – there is still heartache, pain and wounds.
Sometimes the pain comes from wounds that we are too frightened to talk about to others. Sometimes it comes from things we had no control over. Sometimes it comes from bad decisions we made in our past. Sometimes it comes from the evil some people do to others. Sometimes it comes from how society treats people that are deemed “others.” And sometimes it is what we do to ourselves.
No matter how we get these wounds - they are real. The pain is real. The feelings that the wounds and pain are bigger than Jesus – bigger than God—are real. And no easy answers and pithy slogans on photos makes that pain go away. I know that.
But I believe that God helps to heal our wounds if we open our lives to that. I believe that our faith can and does help us survive difficult situations in our lives. I do believe that God is big enough to take our pain, to take our anger, to take our frustrations, and to take our brokenness and help us begin to heal.
For me that healing comes from my faith, from my church community, from my understanding of God’s desire for the best for me, and from the love with which I am surrounded every day. For me healing comes in the Eucharistic meal I participate in every week with my seminary community and monthly with my community of faith. For me healing comes from a faith life that includes prayer, reading the scriptures, spending time in spiritual practices, and honoring my personal faith needs.
But even those powerful parts of my life do not automatically heal all of my wounds. Some wounds are even deeper than I want to admit. I am trying to be open to healing and wholeness. But I still have the wounds. They have shrunken over the years but I still have the scars. There has been healing and renewal, but that does not make me immune from new pain. There have been moments of complete clarity about my life and other times when everything was foggy. And I know that in all of those situations, God was with me. God was bigger than my pain, but I had to open myself to the possibility of healing. I had to stop focusing on the wounds so that I could feel the power of the healing.
The healing was sometimes as painful as the wounding—because it often involved forgiving the person(s) who injured me. And the healing was not always complete because I often held onto the pain since it was so personal to me. And it had been such a part of my journey.
Healing comes if we open ourselves to the possibilities. It can be slow and difficult.
Wounds are not bigger than we are. Pain is not bigger than we are. Even though they feel like that sometimes – they are not bigger than God.
I have to remember that – I think that we all do.