Sankofa #11

Sankofa #11


A few weeks ago, I mused about the fact that we are all wounded (traumatised). And I shared the importance of us healing our wounds. I hope I didn’t give the impression that it was easy. It isn’t.

Healing is never a definite location but something in process. It is the basic ordinary work of staying engaged with our own wounds and limitations. Healing does not necessarily mean forgiveness. Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort.

Wounded Healers

In his brilliant book, The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen describes how we can use our wounds to heal others. He makes the profound claim that “in our own woundedness we can be a source of life for others”[1] or, to put it another way, we can become “wounded healers.”

Moving from wounded soul to wounded healer takes hard work. Over the years I have learned to befriend my wounds, to relate to them intimately and learn from them. Opening our hearts to woundedness helps us to understand that everyone else around us carries around the same woundedness. And when we are willing to heal our wounds, we can become wounded healers. Remember, becoming a wounded healer is always a process—never a finished project.

Psychotherapist Carl Jung believes wounded healers developed insight and resilience from their experiences which enable the emergence of transformation to occur.

Most of you might not have heard of Howard Thurman. He is an African American philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader (1900–1981). With tenderness and pastoral concern, Howard Thurman reminds us that one of the most important aspects of healing is the process of offering our woundedness to God. This week I invite you to make space for yourself. Take several slow, deep breaths to settle your body and calm your mind; then read Thurman’s words slowly and contemplatively, either voiced or within the silence of your heart.

Our Little Lives 

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!
The quietness in Thy Temple of Silence again and again rebuffs us:
For some there is no discipline to hold them steady in the waiting
And the minds reject the noiseless invasion of Thy Spirit.
For some there is no will to offer what is central in the thoughts—
The confusion is so manifest, there is no starting place to take hold.
For some the evils of the world tear down all concentrations
And scatter the focus of the high resolves.

War and the threat of war has covered us with heavy shadows,
Making the days big with forebodings—
The nights crowded with frenzied dreams and restless churnings.
We do not know how to do what we know to do.
We do not know how to be what we know to be.

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!
Brood over our spirits, Our Father,
Blow upon whatever dream Thou hast for us
That there may glow once again upon our hearths
The light from Thy altar.
Pour out upon us whatever our spirits need of shock, of lift, of release
That we may find strength for these days—
Courage and hope for tomorrow.
In confidence we rest in Thy sustaining grace
Which makes possible triumph in defeat, gain in loss, and love in hate.
We rejoice this day to say:
Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar![2]

Let’s remember only transformed people transform people. Fellow sojourners when “our wounds cease to be a source of shame and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.”(Henri Nouwen)

… in the meantime, blessed be.

Rev Swee Ann Koh

[1] Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer (New York: Doubleday, 1972), cover.

[2] Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart (Beacon Press: ©1953, 1981), 83‒84.