Flattening the curve — on fear

| Liz Kelly | March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments


Some months ago at a seminar on healing prayer, the priest leading the study told us a charming — and instructive — story. It went something like this:

Out riding his bike as a little boy, he took a bad spill. It was summer and he had been wearing shorts. His exposed legs took the brunt of the fall, gathering up a slew of pebbles and dirt in the scrape — a typical, burning “road rash.” He ran into the house crying and sure that he would die. His mother, a nurse, assured him he would be all right and took him upstairs to the bathtub to clean his leg. Of course, this notion brought on a new trauma: The cleaning would hurt. A bubbling hydrogen peroxide bath doesn’t sound all that appealing to a child in pain, and he wouldn’t allow his mother to wash the wound.

But, washing it was necessary for it to heal. So, in a stroke of motherly genius, his mother asked, “Where does it hurt the most?” The boy pointed to the worst of the scrape, and his mother leaned down and lightly kissed the spot.

And suddenly, the pain was much more tolerable for the boy, and his mother was able to gently clean the wound — she was an expert at this after all, trained and experienced as a nurse — and the little boy’s world was set to right once again. He was sent back outside to play with a fresh bandage, a peck on the head, and a deeper confidence in his mother’s care.

As a spiritual director, you are frequently instructed to encourage the directee to talk about what they don’t want to talk about. “Go precisely where you don’t want to go; go where it hurts.” For that is where our spiritual work is. And like a little child who’s taken a painful tumble from their bike, we do not want to present this wound for washing. Resistance of this kind often reveals exactly where our spiritual work needs to be done.

Much of the Christian life and certainly spiritual direction could be likened to this tender moment between the little boy and his mother. Jesus — the master of healing and forgiveness — approaches us in our woundedness and gently asks, “Tell me, where does it hurt the most?” The hard part is to allow him to tend to those places that feel most vulnerable — whether it be the sin we are most ashamed of or a sin that has been committed against us, leaving us wounded and raw.

Where you face resistance in letting Jesus approach, remember who you are! Paul says it so convincingly in Ephesians 1:5–11: “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ. … In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. … In him you … were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.”

Grace has been lavished upon you. You are marked and chosen as a child of God, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and no sin-tumble in you is beyond the tender touch of heaven.

Merciful Father, teach my heart to trust you with those places where it hurts the most.

Kelly is the author of seven books, including the award-winning “Jesus Approaches” (2017) and the “Your Heart, His Home Prayer Companion” (2019). Visit her website at liz.org.

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Category: Your Heart His Home