In his book, The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen states this:
For the minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his time in his own heart and make that recognition the starting point of his service. Whether he tries to enter into a dislocated world, relate to a convulsive generation, or speak to a dying man, his service will not be perceived as AUTHENTIC unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which he speaks. (emphasis mine)
Authenticity flows out of our pain. Authentic has been defined as, “genuine; entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement by experience.” Experience is the only way we become real to others.
In the children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit, there is a conversation that takes place between two toys – a stuffed rabbit and the skin horse.
Rabbit asks the question, “What is REAL?”
Skin Horse replies in his wisdom, “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you.”
Rabbit asks, “Does it hurt?”
“Sometimes”, Skin Horse replies. For he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or who have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
And that is so it. We want to be real, to be authentic. But somehow we want to do it without the pain, without the uncomfortable.
Yet it is through our own sufferings that we are then able to relate to others. Paul put it this way, “Praise be to the God & 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 received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 NIV)
Ann Voskamp writes…..”Joy and Pain, they are but two arteries of our heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living.”
It is as we experience joy and pain that we find ourselves truly alive. Christ comforts us so that we are able to bring comfort and relief to others that are suffering. May we keep our hearts soft and feeling at all times, so we do not become numb to life and those around us. It is better to cry and thus be able to experience the joy of life together than to miss it all.
Today may I be willing to be Real. May I be willing to let the painful things in life shape and grow authenticity in me. For it is then, that I will find, just like the Velveteen Rabbit ….
“…once you are Real, you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
(Excerpts taken from “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams)