“You. Come with me.” That was the beginning of the end.
“Spray, scrub, iodine, cream, then wrap it up. Go.” The Sister spoke in broken English as she quickly demonstrated, and then sent me on my way. The Missionaries of Charity don’t mess around when it comes to serving our Lord in the poor. That became very clear during our two weeks on mission in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world.
I remember looking at the girls with me. Our disbelieving eyes met as if to say, “Is this honestly happening right now?” Funnily enough, it WAS.
The alleyway we were working in was lined with people who needed their wounds cleaned and bound, seeking some sort of healing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it turns out I was there for the same reason.
“Go! Begin!” Sister said. I found myself walking slowly toward a 60-something-year-old man with his leg on the bench, waiting to be tended to.
I was already sweating like a crazy woman due to the heat, but now I was sweating because…oh, right — I HAD NO CLUE WHAT THE HECK I WAS DOING.
I sat down in front of him and I’m sure my face said it all. I started to unwrap his old bandage, thinking to myself, “Should I tell him I majored in theatre now or later?”
“Wound” was an understatement for this man. His wounds were gashes: huge pieces of flesh gone, complete holes…you get the idea. This man’s leg was unlike anything I had ever seen.
He could sense my fear. He took my kit and started cleaning it himself. I remember thinking, “Oh, yep. Yes. For sure. You know what you’re doing! I’ll just sit here and watch for moral support. Perfect. Good.”
He flew through the spray, he quickly scrubbed, he sprinkled the iodine on, and all the while I’m thinking, “Okay that wasn’t too bad, I can do that on the next guy.” And then he came to an abrupt stop. It wasn’t over, and we both knew it. The next step was the worst: the antibacterial cream.
This was the step where you actually had to touch the wound.
He looked at me and then handed me the cream, as if to say, “Now THIS is your job.”
At that moment, this is what was running through my brain: “NO NO NOOO NO NOO NO NOPE. YOU DO IT. YOU DID ALL THE OTHER STEPS. WHY NOT THIS ONE? I’M NOT STRONG ENOUGH FOR THIS, KIND SIR. NO.”
And while that was happening in my head, this is what was happening in my heart: “Yes. This is simple. I’m going to do this. This is Jesus. And he is asking me to trust him. Yes.”
So I grabbed that cream. By the strength and grace of God, I touched his wound. I started singing to ease my fears; I prayed the Hail Mary out loud; and then I realized what scared me the most about what I was doing:
I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to touch the place that I knew would cause him the most pain.
I felt exactly like Thomas the Apostle. The whole time I was in Haiti, I felt like Thomas. Doubting. Doubting that I was actually helping these people in any way. Doubting that Lord was in the struggles, pain and confusion he had placed in front of me.
But in that moment, the Lord revealed Himself to me. Right before I touched his wound, I could hear the Lord saying, “Do you believe Me? Do you believe that by touching his wound, even if it brings great pain in this moment, that you will be helping it heal? That through this purification, I will allow something new to be born? Do you believe Me, without seeing?”
The Lord was talking about a whole lot more than the physical wound in front of me.
G.K. Chesterton said, “We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
Amen to THAT. We mustn’t give up on each other, especially when it gets hard. Healing comes from prayer and surrender, yes, but it also comes from the broken brothers and sisters the Lord has placed in your path. We have so much to learn from each other.
Even though I tended to him physically, that man in the alley brought me so much healing within. By simply trusting me enough to see and touch his wounds, he showed me true humility, true vulnerability. He couldn’t take the last step alone, so he asked me to help him. I couldn’t take the last step alone, so I asked the Lord to help me. What a beautiful gift to be able to lean on each other, and in the end to find ourselves resting in the arms of the Lord.
Isn’t that how we should be loving everyone in our lives?
Too often, we let our own imperfections and insecurities hold us back from loving, from being vulnerable with each other and with God. We see our wounds as weaknesses, reasons to believe that we are not enough, so we carry them alone, silently. When really, we should be carrying each other to Christ. The fact that we are all broken should not hold us back, it should set us free.
Pope Francis said, “The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for the faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ, the wounds never pass away…They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy, and faithfulness.”
- Put your leg on the table and shine light on your wounds. That’s strength.
- Be vulnerable and carry each other to Christ. That’s love.
- Believe that he is making all things new. That’s a promise.
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