No man is an island.
In the book with the same title from John Donne, an English poet in the 1600’s, he beautifully affirms that human beings isolated from others do not thrive.
A couple of weeks ago, we experienced the tragedy of the loss of another man, husband, father and pastor – Darrin Patrick.
Darrin Patrick was a pastor who planted a church that grew to the thousands. However, one day, the wheels of his life fell off. He lost his ministry and influence and found himself broken and wounded, yet he pursued the path of restoration.
My goal here is not to repeat what many other people are saying over the last couple of days about the tragedy of his death and his ministry. I want to talk about his wounds. Our wounds.
We are all wounded.
Henri Nouwen, in his classic book The Wounded Healer, says that we are all wounded. He also presents a hopeful model of ministry that compassionately identifies with the woundedness of human nature. It refers not only to the fallenness of those we serve but also to the inherent frailty of the servant.
Nouwen says that these frailties are not a reason for feelings of inadequacy and guilt but are the conditions in which we experience God’s healing grace.
The apostle Paul also experienced this, as the Lord told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
If this is true, as leaders and as wounded people, how do our wounds affect the men we serve, disciple, and mentor?
Let me suggest a way to minister to each other in light of our wounds.
Being wounded means you are hurt. The traumas and pain from past and present, a sin against you, must not be overlooked. Our wounds must not be a source of shame but of empathy. It should not be perceived as a distraction from our ministry, but an open the door to minister to others.
Many leaders are under pressure by the task and may not pay close attention to their bleeding. To lead and minister out of their unhealed wounds will eventually end up taking them out of ministry. It’s like bleeding to death – sometimes, literally. A wound must be exposed and treated. If not cared for by the community, the wounds will lead to entitlement, isolation, loneliness and fall.
Moses didn’t realize he was wounded and grieving when his sister Miriam died. After almost 40 years leading the stubborn people of Israel with patience and grace, he blew the gasket at Meribah, and that cost him entering the promised land (Numbers 20). Moses became disqualified. I have always wondered: if Moses had someone to call him aside, if they had called a time-out and walked alongside him, would he have enjoyed the promised land?
Healthy leadership implies community. The wounded will always find the empathy of His Saviour who suffered, and from His sufferings, they will be healed. However, this will hardly happen in isolation. People need God, and people need people.
According to Nouwen, when we live a life of the cross, moving forward in faith, we become a wounded healer. It is from the scars of a healed wound, and the limp in our walk, that at the cross, we not only find forgiveness and empathy but a person – Jesus Christ. In Him, our wounds are healed, and our sins are forgiven.
Approaching life and people from the perspective of the cross makes us think rightly about the world, and it should change how I perceive life and people.
Wounded healers don’t forget about their scars of healed wounds, they embrace them and offer their healed hurts to help others receive comfort and encouragement. They share in the sufferings of Christ, and in turn they share the comfort of Christ with other people.
To perpetuate the lone ranger mentality of leadership is unhelpful and damaging. The reality of our wounds and how Christ offers to heal us all is how leaders will be sensitive enough to walk with others.
Hopefully, then, we will not have to hear of such tragedies anymore.