I feel like I was a slacker in the reading department during 2013. In hindsight, I realize I started off rip-roaring through a lengthy biography on Daniel Boone, an awesome memoir by one of my former professors called, “Booked,” a Johnny Cash book, and a Dickens’ classic I had started a few months earlier. As a slow reader, I set myself up for failure to complete all of those books by not sticking with one at a time. I completed one from that first batch for 2014 and a few others as well, but I wish I had read more. The thing is, despite the fact that I’m a slow reader, I thoroughly love to read. Per my request last Christmas, my mom gifted me with Eric Metaxes’, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” Just over one Christmas later, I’m 100 pages in and thoroughly intrigued.
The Bonhoeffers had eight kids. Five of them ended up dying because of war. Their youngest son, Dietrich, is whom the book is about. But each member of that family seems to have lived in a particularly remarkable manner. The second eldest son, Walter, was caught by shrapnel in WWI. Just three hours before his death after an infection set in post-surgery, he wrote a letter home to his family. As he lay there in undeniable pain, here’s part of what he wrote, “There are more interesting things in the world than just my wounds.”
How’s that for convicting? Here we have a man who was on his death bed proclaiming that there were things far more worthy of focusing on than the pain he was experiencing.
I’ve found myself in a vortex of pain many times throughout my own 29 years. Sometimes it was physical. Sometimes it was emotional. Sometimes it was mental. Sometimes it was spiritual.
Never have I been as profound as Dietrich’s lesser known brother, who offerred his life just as his younger sibling had for a cause he believed in.
How about you? What is your inclination when pain stabs you and leaves you with a gaping wound?
Does the pain mask the world that is spinning around you? Are you so overwhelmed with how badly you need a bandaid that you miss the loving hands that put it on you? Are you so numb from the pain that a parade of wonder marches before your window unnoticed? Has the wound festered so much that infection prevents you from walking toward the amazing future that has been prepared for you?
When you are hurting, it’s hard for that to go unnoticed. Nearly impossible at times. Nerves are struck, fevers spike, hearts sink, tears flow, emotions are frayed, and minds are frazzled when pain sets in. It’s ordinary that some would focus only on these aspects of wounds when they are present because they can be overwhelming.
But we aren’t created to be ordinary.
No. We are created to be extraordinary.
Some remain ordinary because they remain as old creations.
Yet, those who are new creations are transformed into the extraordinary.
It’s not normal to be able to think past your own pain and things beyond yourself. Our human nature is a very selfish one. There’s nothing abnormal about dwelling on the wounds that afflict you.
But our divine nature says otherwise. The Imago Dei (Image of God) that is present in all mankind is lit like a fire inside those who are new creations. It moves past the mirror to look farther than the pain and onward to the promise of a fascinatingly wonderful story full of other obstacles, people, places, and knowledge.
This story is far more interesting than merely our own wounds.
No one needs ignore the fact that the wounds hurt nor to diminish the experience of one’s own pain or another’s. Knowing pain is a very real human experience that affects so many areas of a person’s life. Recognition and care for the spots that pain us are part of the season and process of grief and mourning. Yet, something extraordinary happens when eyes shift beyond the wounds that are immediate to the world that is immense.
Help and healing are to be found when gazing upon the rest of God’s creation. The rocks, trees, hills, and galaxies beckon the acknowledgement of the creator.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)
Suddenly, our pain and our own persons don’t seem so large. In fact, we seem quite small compared to the rest of the universe.
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)
Yet, while we observe creation beyond ourselves, we can perceive all the more how much God cares even for our smallest needs.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31
As we observe the rest of the world around us, our eyes are opened to others who may have a need greater than our own.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
And when we observe those needs of others, we realize that our own wounds have a purpose that is far more interesting than mere existence.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NIV)
Walter Bonhoeffer figured something out just in the knick of time before he drew his last breath: There really ARE more interesting things in the world now than our wounds.
With eyes wide and hearts open we will surely find them when we look beyond our own wounded selves and souls.