This article first appeared at: stpaulcenter.com
Admitting that we need change can also kick up fear regarding the hard work that change demands. Many of us sense that the process of growing and changing is a long and arduous journey. Flannery O’Connor summarized it well when she wrote, “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” While we may be unhappy and displeased with the way life is now, changing would likely take so much effort, energy, and struggle that unless we can be guaranteed a significant improvement and increase in happiness, we are not willing to make the effort.
We’re right to assume that changing will be a hard process. C. S. Lewis masterfully brings to life how uncomfortable healing can be in his book The Great Divorce. A poignant encounter occurs between a man with a talkative lizard grafted onto his shoulder and an angel who wants to heal him. Now, in the story, the lizard represents the vice of lust, but the story has a broader application. It illustrates our fear of changing in general. The lizard constantly chitters and chatters in the man’s ear. He feels frustrated and annoyed by the lizard’s persistent walking. When the angel offers to remove the lizard, however, the man hesitates as the angel raises its fiery hands. The man immediately becomes afraid, asking the angel whether taking the lizard will hurt. The angel affirms that it will hurt, but that the man will be better for it. The man’s fear of discomfort prevents him from giving his consent to the angel to take the lizard. How often is this true of us? Our fear of discomfort prevents us from doing the necessary work to heal our emotional suffering. Further, not only is the man afraid of the discomfort, but he cannot imagine what his life will be like without the lizard. The little lizard has become a part of him. Though the lizard causes him much suffering, the man has become accustomed and comfortable with the consistent chattering in his ear. He struggles to conceive of what life might be like without this companion. It is familiar after all, and we are creatures who love familiarity. We like consistency.
The man in Lewis’s story knows what to expect from his suffering, but what the angel offers him is uncertainty. The angel tells the man that he will be healed, but the man has never experienced this freedom. Are we not like the man with the lizard? We don’t know what to expect from the process of healing other than discomfort. The thought of facing our demons without some assurance of what lies on the other side makes us wary to try. Even worse, what if after all of our hard work we don’t feel any better?
So, we pretend. We remain stuck. But make no mistake, we are all wounded. We are all carrying hurts and emotional burdens that overwhelm us, embarrass us, and scare us. From the prince to the pauper, the pope to the parish priest, we all carry wounds that need healing. Pope Francis recognized this reality when he said in one of his homilies, “How many people need their wounds to be healed! . . . This is the Church’s mission: healing the wounds of the heart, opening doors, liberating, and saying that God is good, God forgives all, that God is Father, that God is gentle, that God always waits for us.” If we are going to heal, we must first acknowledge that we are indeed wounded and hurting.
Prayer for Healing:
God, for so long I have been struggling and suffering, sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small ways, in so many areas of my life. I have not known what to do. I have not been able to fix the problems. I’ve been pretending that I am not hurting. I’ve been covering up my pain. I am tired of pretending and am exhausted from hiding my struggles. Grant me the humility to admit all of the wounds of the past that still bother me, and the willingness to acknowledge all of the current struggles that cause me frustration. Amen.
Finding Freedom in Christ
– Dr. Matthew Breuninger (Paperback)
We all have wounds. We all experience the emotional suffering that arises when we’re prevented from receiving or giving love as we were created to. As we orchestrate our lives to hide our wounds and avoid the discomfort of having them irritated, we end up creating anxiety, unhappiness, exhaustion, anger, and a sense of meaninglessness. The good news is that God wants to heal us!
In Finding Freedom in Christ: Healing Life’s Hurts, Dr. Matthew Breuninger examines the nature and causes of our wounds. Finding Freedom in Christ outlines a six-step model to help readers identify and remove the barriers to God’s healing grace—making deeper conversion possible. Ultimately, the goal of this healing model is to free individuals to love and serve God and one another.