The question of healing. Maybe it’s not the right one to ask.

I have been pondering the question of healing a lot lately.

A friend and co-worker’s cancer that will never go away; a “life” ahead of unknown quality and tenure. My oldest friend’s breast cancer now “healed” through the monotonous abuse of chemotherapy and radiation; her husband’s battle not being won as he vacillate between a residency in hospitals and rehab centers. My boyfriend’s family friend dying suddenly just days ago; the news of his brother heart-attack just today. Emails I receive from women whose hearts ache in shuddering, nearly earth-stopping ways as they face struggles, challenges, and endless trials. A partisan-split nation that wields words like weapons. Healing feels a distant if not a futile hope; something only for the simple-minded.

But I wonder if perhaps healing requires something far more profound than what our minds can grasp; something to which our hearts must open.

The more you open yourself to being healed, the more you will discover how deep your wounds are…The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking through them…The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your wounds to your head or your heart. In your head you analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down to your heart. Then you can live through them and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your wounds.

~ Henri Nouwen

Your heart is greater than your wounds.

Maybe questions about healing – of relationships, bodies, even nations – are the wrong ones to ask. Maybe instead, this: Will you live from your heart, no matter what this means, looks like, or results in? If Nouwen is right and your heart is greater than your wounds, than healing is not the currency with which you barter and buy; rather, vast compassion, endless faith, enduring hope, and unconditional love.

Your heart is greater than your wounds. This means that your deepest aches, pains, and harms still do not begin to tap the capacity of your heart to bear them. This may be the most unnerving thing you’ve ever heard – or the most delectable taste of healing ever. Maybe both. Either way, you and your heart have strength beyond compare. That thought is healing.


A quick postscript: Last week I announced a collaborative course I’m offering alongside three amazing women. Women on the Threshold: The Wild Heart of Longing is a 12-week online retreat that explores women’s stories; your stories – in mythic archetype, in fairytale, in song, in scripture, in life. It is beautiful. And even better, we just made the decision to offer an amended version that saves you $300 in registration costs. Learn more. And join us! Heart and healing beyond compare.

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    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    Brit Hanson July 30, 2012 at

    Yes. Makes me think of Mary Oliver’s Heavy:

    That time
    I thought I could not
    go any closer to grief
    without dying.
    I went closer,
    and I did not die.

    Surely God
    had His hand in this,
    as well as friends.

    Still I was bent,
    and my laughter,
    as the poet said,
    was nowhere to be found.

    Then said my friend Daniel
    (brave even among lions),
    “It is not the weight you carry
    but how you carry it—

    books, bricks, grief—
    it’s all in the way
    you embrace it, balance it, carry it
    When you cannot, and would not,
    put it down.”

    So I went practicing.
    Have you noticed?
    Have you heard
    the laughter
    that comes, now and again,
    out of my startled mouth?

    How I linger
    to admire, admire
    the things of this world
    that are kind and maybe
    also troubled—

    roses in the wind,
    The sea geese on the steep waves,
    a love
    to which there is no reply?


    Ronna Detrick July 30, 2012 at

    Gasping for breath at the beauty of this, Brit. Thank you.


    Sandi Amorim July 30, 2012 at

    “Will you live from your heart, no matter what this means, looks like, or results in?”

    This question brought tears to my eyes so I know it’s where to go. Thank you for this much needed reminder.


    Ronna Detrick July 30, 2012 at

    Mmmmm. The tears are the sign, aren’t they? I’m with you. And thank YOU, Sandi.


    Alana Sheeren July 30, 2012 at

    “Your heart is greater than your wounds. This means that your deepest aches, pains, and harms still do not begin to tap the capacity of your heart to bear them. ”

    Yes. I believe this whole-heartedly. I have attempted to live from my heart, no matter what that looks like, from the day the wounding became too deep to ignore.

    Thank you for expressing this so beautifully.
    Alana Sheeren recently posted..Lost-baby love, two years later


    Ronna Detrick July 30, 2012 at

    “…from the day the wounding became too deep to ignore.” Exactly. It hardly makes the pain less – in fact, often more acute; but to acknowledge it and it’s deepest source is where the healing begins. SO grateful for your words, your honesty, your presence here Alana. Thank you.


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