~St. Francis of Assisi
I finished reading a book on the life of St. Francis the week. I was struck over and over on his all consuming passion and love for Jesus. How a playboy turned monk turned the church around with his emphasis on love, simplicity and charity towards all things.
I found myself longing for the longing of Francis. There were so many stories, so many events, both joy-filled, and crushing that captivated my reading, thinking, and meditating. In the book, one chapter began with the title, "Embracing the Wound." In this piece, the editor, Mirabai Starr, expounded a bit on a certain encounter Francis had with a leper that forever changed his life. So read on…
Embracing the Wound
What is within yourself that horrifies you? Can you gently resist the urge to turn away and instead allow yourself to turn toward it? Can you not only face that which repulses or frightens or offends you, but embrace it? Can you let yourself be irrevocably transformed by the encounter?
Early in his awakening, Francis, who was raised with wealth and privilege, crossed paths with a leper. The man's face was eroded by disease, his sores oozing. With the help of two sticks, he hobbled on the rotten stumps of his feet, dutifully clanging his clapper to warn passerby of his proximity.
That day, before Francis had a chance to register the sound, he found himself face-to face with the leper. Everything in him wanted to run. Revulsion rose in his belly like bile, and his heart thundered in his chest. He drew a deep breath.
"Good morning, brother," he said. Then he walked up to the man and took his ravaged hands in his own. He brought them to his lips and kissed them, then released his hands and pulled the astonished leper into a close embrace. He stroked the man's sparse hair.
A powerful wave of love washed away any traces of horror. What was ugly became unspeakably beautiful. Francis saw no difference between this man's physical wounds, the suffering of humanity, or Francis' own shattered heart. No difference between deep sorrow and profound joy. Compassion and gratitude.
Francis never again turned away from brokenness, in other creatures, or in himself. Can you embrace the one inside you whom you were taught to disdain? Can you invite the banished one home?
The wounds of ourselves and of others scare us at a deep level. "What if their wound infect us?" or better yet we might think, "What if their wound affects us?" To embrace the wound in others will leave us different, stirred, affected. The degree in which you engage the wound of society might even infect you, not physically, but spiritually, and that will affect every area of your life.
Jesus seemed to always head towards those whose life choices or life's circumstances had built a wall of isolation around them, that only a love that embraces wounds could melt. Once the outside wound is touched by grace, the inside wound begins to heal. To embrace the inside wound is no easier than staring into the oozing sores of the outward condition.
We often live so long with our wounds that they become one with who we think we are. We begin to identify more with the wound, than with the One who would, with love, touch and heal the wound. Sometimes the wound allows us to justify our behaviors, or serve as a scapegoat for our weakness in character. So to embrace the wound is to admit that we are not the wound, and if healed, we must stand on our own.
Sometimes it is easier to embrace the wound in others than to embrace the wound in ourselves. God would gently speak to all of us the reality of the wound within, and the truth that His Son came as the remedy for the wound, or as Isaiah says, "By His stripes we were healed."
To close this rumination, I leave you with one more prayer of Francis
Where there is love and wisdom,
there is neither fear nor ignorance.
Where there is patience and humility,
there is neither anger nor annoyance.
Where there is poverty and joy,
there is neither grasping nor greed.
Where there is peace and contemplation,
there is neither anxiety nor restlessness.
Where there is awe of God guarding the dwelling,
there no adversary can enter.
Where there is mercy and moderation,
there is neither excess nor harshness.
~St. Francis of Assisi, The Admonitions XXVII