I don’t know about anyone else, but when it comes to things like politics, religion, identity, etc., I don’t think of it in terms of popularity, personal feelings, or even principle. Instead, I think of it by way of health. I ask myself, when I look at anything, “Is this healthy?”
It’s a reliable way of approaching things; no matter how anyone feels or thinks about it, if something isn’t good for one’s emotional, mental, physical, and/or spiritual health, it probably isn’t something one ought to do. Health is something that just isn’t a matter of opinion or preference. We can be misdiagnosed, blame something else as the cause of our malady, but at the end of the day, our wounds speak for themselves.
Sure, like every human being, I chose things I know not to be healthy, usually to comfort myself about something. Just about every bad habit I have comes from a desire for a pain to go away, and those bad habits do make it go away…for a little while. Then it comes back, and I’m hurting again (but now, I also have this bad habit that’s eating away at my overall health and well-being).
My priest friend gave me a book as an early Christmas gift, Be Healed by Bob Schuchts. I read it before, wrote all kinds of little notes in it. I think I wanted to make myself feel like I was learning from it when in reality, it didn’t really stick. Having a fresh copy made me realize that.
He told me to read it slowly, take it a chapter a week, a very different approach than what I’m used to (I tend to speed-read books, and just re-read them over and over). The first chapter addresses the universal need for healing and wholeness we all long for deep inside. It also is where the writer introduces us to his story, how his father left him and his family for another woman, his basketball coach tried to molest him, and two girlfriends cheated on him, all in a very short time frame. ‘Probably comes to little surprise that brought up a lot of things from my own past, particularly what he wrote about the need/want for a father in light of what the books call a “father wound”.
As it is, I wrote to one of my failed father figures not long ago. I did what I wanted to do for years now, and told him off. I told him how I hated him this whole time, and why, listing the ways he hurt and failed me. I sent him that message not to hurt him, or get a reaction; instead, I hoped he can learn from his failures. I did say in the same breath, though, that “I definitely don’t want or need a father.”
That statement, that message, all these things have been occupying my thoughts since I picked this book back up. It came at the forefront of my mind as I went to Mass tonight, angry and hurt the whole time I was there again, wondering why I keep doing this to myself again. I would glare upward, angry that God the Father demands my presence at Church every Sunday, knowing as intimately as God could know how awful it makes me feel, all the pain it brings up.
I’d tell Him the same thing, “I definitely don’t want or need a father.” When I’d feel a nudge of God calling my bluff, I’d tell Him how painful it is to want or need something I can’t seem to have. I’d rant at Him, asking what I did that was so bad to deserve all this. I’d ask why He tortures me like this.
But then, today, I had a different thought like a whisper: “Surgery.”
Like some things we do for our health, surgery isn’t without pain. It involves cutting someone open to get to the very cause of the malady, and removing that cause before carefully putting everything back into place. Human doctors can make mistakes, misdiagnose, or even try to profit from our pain. God as a doctor, though, as I remember Jesus in the gospels at least, is only interested in making people better. He had nothing to gain from healing or helping the people He did, except to show and spread love and healing.
Schuchts quotes the story of the woman at the well in that beginning, how Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman one hot afternoon, asking for water. He talks about how Jesus “thirsted for this woman, with a deep desire that was totally different from the way other men desired her,” and how He “desired to fulfill her, not to use her.” (pg.2) My priest friend told me to focus on this part, and with good reason. He knew that I identified with the Samaritan woman as someone ashamed and used to being used.
To be honest, if I were her, I’d want to run away and hide from Jesus’ gaze. I’m aware that Jesus desires me, as He does all of us, more than anyone else could desire me. That’s terrifying. Desire, I’ve learned, drives people to do horrible things to me. It doesn’t matter what I do; if someone wants something enough, they’re willing to do just about anything to get it. I feel like I’m swimming with all these hungry, vicious sharks with an open wound, just waiting for the next one to bite another chunk out of me. Meanwhile, here’s God, wanting all of me.
My priest friend told me, “Don’t run.” He told me to not run to whatever thing I use to comfort myself, and instead, turn and face God.
The very idea filled me with fear. “What if something bad happens?”
“It won’t. I guarantee it,” he promised.
I’m not sure how successful I was this week of following his “prescription” for me. I’m not sure how much was healed in me tonight when all that same stuff came back. It occurred to me that while the things that re-traumatized me are what’s flooding back, and the original trauma is locked away, the lock on my father wounds are loosening. That’s scary…but it must be a good thing to get to the root of the problem, right?
The healing journey from anything that harmed us is never without pain. The more intimate and extensive the harm, the more time and work it’s going to take to heal. I wish I could be better like in the stories, in a miraculous moment. I had another insight that maybe that attitude is like taking a whole bunch of pills at once in hopes of getting better at once; not usually the wisest choice of action.
“Don’t worry,” my priest friend assured me. “We’ll get you there.”
I hope so.