Wounded Worshipper

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Compassion, Reflections
Tags: , ,

I am convinced that our created selves are formed in ways that are remarkably resilient. The human body can heal itself and regenerate parts of itself in ways that are nothing less than a miracle. It can withstand unmentionable injury and find ways to compensate for lasting weaknesses.

But then there are those times our bodies are profoundly fragile. One wrong little substance introduced, one injury to just the right body part and a cascade of breakdown removes the vitality of life.

The first funeral I did as a minister was for an 18 year old high school student. He was carefree and cheerful in the way he carried himself. He was the grandson of one of my first parishioners. Her name was Gracie.

Gracie was one of those resilient people. Her body was literally only half here in this world. She had only one lung and one breast, no appendix and only one kidney. She had a full hysterectomy. She was in a wheelchair due to severe arthritis that prevented her from walking. She had been a domestic violence victim who related stories of being thrown down a flight of stairs and being slammed against walls. One of her children suffers from mental illness. She did most of the parenting of her grandchildren because of it. She suffered from small strokes that robbed her of her creative outlet of oil painting.

I could hardly believe she could survive all of it. She was a remarkable woman of strength who made her mark with the saying “Jesus loves me!” She lived that proclamation. She put skin on it. She demonstrated how to be resilient with a working faith.

She called me one afternoon and said simply, Kenny is dead. He died in his bedroom. I could hardly believe the words she spoke. She discovered him lifeless, lying on his bed. She was helpless to reach him however, as her wheelchair would not fit past the furnishings blocking his door. Calling for help, they discovered he had died just hours before, his heart stopping.

Upon further examination, it was discovered he had been using Gracie’s pain patches along with other drugs. With an undiagnosed heart condition, his heart simply stopped beating as the medications released the drugs. Gracie struggled to overcome the grief. She spoke of the memory of delivering him on her living room floor 18 years prior. With dignity, she lived up to her name and pressed on. She was resilient.

One day, she called me from the hospital. Cancer. Again. Pneumonia. Infection. Barely able to breathe, she asked me to bring communion to her. She struggled for every breath. She struggled to press on. She struggled to be resilient…again. Every time I went to see her, she struggled. She fought to remain strong for her kids, her grandkids, her great granddaughter.

One day after her doctor came into the room, she looked at me with a longing in her eyes. She said she was tired. She was afraid she could not fight any longer. I could sense she was looking for permission to let go, to be the wounded one, to be the one who would be carried and cared for. Her battles had been many and her scars were deep and thick.

I told her it was okay to be the wounded one now. I gave her permission to be wounded. Quiet, large tears rolled down her cheeks. She smiled and thanked me. She asked how she could tell her son she was too tired to fight anymore. Her main concern was always for her family who depended on her to be the strong one. As we talked and prayed, her spirit seemed to breathe deeper even though her body would not.

She died, struggling for every breath. I could tell she was waiting for Jesus. With her wounded body, she rested in the arms of one who was wounded for her.

I wondered then. And I still wonder, what makes a person strong and yet so fragile at the same time? Why was her young and strong grandson so fragile and she was so incredibly resilient? I found myself being more careful with my own life and health. I watched my adult children more closely. I coached my grandchildren to be safer.

The addicts I work with- My heart longs to tell them. When they wake up tomorrow, will their bodies be strong? Today will they be resilient? Or today, will they be fragile?

To my daredevil sons- My heart leaps and longs to caution them. “You may not be resilient today! I am glad you are strong. Please be careful! “

I think of Gracie often. Her example of resiliency I believe is directly a combination of her personal tenacity and the mercy of God. She lived Romans 12:1-2. She gave her everything to her Creator, even her body as a sacrifice to be used for Kingdom work. She sang Jesus Loves Me wherever she went and lived it with all the life she could muster. It was her act of worship to be used, however it would benefit God’s Kingdom.

Gracie worshipped God in and with her woundedness. She worshipped with her scarred body, a God who was also wounded and scarred.

I think there is redemptive value in her example. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint us. My heart is overflowing with her reminder of pressing on toward hope.

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Comments
  1. Mickey says:

    Wow–you so captured the essence of Grace! I can just see her with a big smile on her face going down the hallway at church–with a kid on her lap, giving a ride on her wheelchair! She was always so ready to offer a prayer of intercession—and you knew God heard her prayers. Thinking of her, I miss her, too–but am glad to know that God is compassionate and didn’t leave her here to suffer. My life is so shallow–she lived and breathed with a depth that only those who truly give themselves as a living sacrifice can experieince. She—along with your eloquent writing–is showing me I need to be more compassionate to others–and spend more time on my knees.There IS redemtive value in her example. There is hope for my shallow life–that I could give more and be more like Jesus. Thanks.

  2. Erika says:

    Wow. Gracies story is so inspiring. The care that you took in writing this has warmed my heart. Thanks Amy…

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