Henri Nouwen focuses our attention on the fact that we can claim our woundedness as our “unique way to glory” and make our brokenness into “the gateway to joy”. Quoting the great Augustine who remarked, “In my deepest wound I see your glory and it dazzles me,” Richard Rohr can only conclude that “Our wound is our way through.” Indeed, the path toward our eventual wholeness is precisely through our own woundedness— as counterintuitive as it sounds. As Nouwen testifies, “My own experience with anguish has been that facing it and living it through, is the way to healing”. How does this happen and get translated into concrete reality in our experience?
There are inherent sacramental blessings contained within our broken condition if we can see past its ugly face. To borrow Nouwen’s familiar language, once we choose to move beyond its “opaqueness” and into “transparency” by contemplating its deeper reality, we will soon realize that our brokenness does not have the final say in our lives; wholeness does. Our woundedness is reckoned but a means and never as the end. Nouwen shares this helpful viewpoint:
The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it. The great secret of the spiritual life… is that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity.
Despite the severity of our broken state, all of our shattered pieces can prove vital to our own personal integration.
Nouwen stands convinced that we are only able to befriend our woundedness as we learn how to see it as a blessing instead of a curse. “Living our brokenness under the curse,” he avers, “means that we experience our pain as a confirmation of our negative feelings about ourselves”. Each time something bad happens to us, or when we get a raw deal out of life, we end up evaluating our circumstances in accordance with this distorted thinking that we must be cursed. Consequently, we start nurturing unwarranted fears in our hearts that further prevent us from facing our woundedness head-on. This, in turn, only delays the prospect for our true healing.
Thus, instead of operating under the predication of a curse, Henri Nouwen summons us to reframe our thinking by consciously seeing our brokenness as a blessing.
The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing. Great and heavy burdens become light and easy when they are lived in the light of the blessing. What seemed intolerable becomes a challenge. What seemed a reason for depression becomes a source of purification. What seemed punishment becomes gentle pruning. What seemed rejection becomes a way to a deeper communion.
While none of our brokenness will ever disappear completely or even be minimized during our lifetime, Nouwen is nevertheless certain that “embracing it and bringing it into the light of the One who calls us the Beloved can make our brokenness shine like a diamond”. What can prove to be the ultimate blessing is to be able to put our woundedness in the service of others. This we can do by following in Nouwen’s footsteps and becoming exactly what he was: a wounded healer.