Wounded Healer

One of the biggest questions that is thrown my way is who Pastors the Pastor. That is a great question that I honestly never had an answer for.

Then I started seminary at Eastern Mennonite in VA. I was taking a class that where I had to tell my story

No one enters the ministry or a caregiving vocation expecting to be hurt. The hope is that these men and women will be life changers and go through life smelling the roses. I myself subscribed to this though pattern until I sat in a lecture about being a pastor. The speaker said to the group that even though we may get attached to the people we serve; in the case of tragedy and death we are to show no emotion. This did not sit well with my soul, and I certainly did not think that is how Jesus would have gone about this.

One lesson I have learned through this process is that grief cannot be placed in compartments to fit your life. Feelings and emotions cannot be bottled up, well at least for a long period of time. The pain and hurt needs to be expressed in a honest and safe way. Being the minister over many funerals in my career, not once did it occur to me that being an emotionless robot would be the best way to serve a grieving family.

When we experience a loss, we feel the world has stopped, but it hasn’t. Clergy need to remember the words we share with others. We have to remember and embrace that we are not alone in our wounds and darkness. There are others who are watching a ball game, drinking a highly overpriced cup of coffee, and even behind the pulpit who are feeling grief and loss at this very moment, including the writer of these words.

Over the years I have spent in seminary and working on this project I have learned this truth; it is ok to feel the emotions that swell up in our souls. In the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus wept.[1]

 The context here is that Jesus had just found out that Lazarus had died. Jesus, knowing that he could resurrect him with just a snap of a finger, felt sadness and sorrow. My thoughts and feelings concluded that if Jesus was honest and showed raw emotion, pastors including myself, should be able to do the same. However, this is not something Pastors are comfortable sharing due to consequences of being seen as weak, unstable, and in some cases may lose their job. This presents a question how can a Pastor walk with their congregants if they are carrying  grief of their own, who pastors the pastor? Is it possible or a conflict of interest?

It was not until I came to Eastern Mennonite Seminary that I was able to allow myself to tackle this dilemma. I was in an intensive that dealt with spiritual formation, and we had to share stories of our lives. I have had my share of loss and tragedy and as I shared my story, I realized that this was the first time I spoke of my grief, and it was painful. In talking about my hurt, my peers pointed out the self-harm I was inflicting on myself. One classmate with a gentle soul commented afterwards that I was a wounded healer, this was a life changing statement. My initial thought was can I be wounded and pastor those in my congregation that are hurting as well?

To be honest at the beginning of my journey to understanding who I am as a wounded healer, I felt like a fraud. I asked myself how can I help someone else if I can not even help myself. What was interesting was I could hear my Grandfathers voice in my head saying, “It’s not you, but God.”

This has lead me to look at my calling to expand to be that encourager, a Pastor to those who Pastor others. I hope to provide resources over time and develop this into a full blown curriculum.

 

[1] John 11:35

 

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