Summary: Advent 1987: Many of us live with deep disappointments, profoundly wounded spirits. Whole nations so live, thanks to the scourge of war. Christ, the Word Made Flesh, does more than tell us to "get over it." He stands beside us, with us.
Jim, as I will call him, was a successful pastor, acclaimed for his preaching skill, sought out for his wisdom, almost worshipped by the flocks of young adults who came to the church he served. It seemed he could do no wrong and that he had it all together, from here on out. Nothing, it seemed, would derail him. But then, one day, after a series of baffling illnesses, the physician spoke words of terror. Your little daughter has cancer; there's very little we can do for her. Likely she will not live. And, after several months of hope and then of dread, of feeling that the disease was whipped and then of knowing that it wasn't, the child did die. Of course it was tough, of course it was most difficult for him and his wife to handle, but everyone felt they would handle it. Jim would come through. And it seemed that he did; it seemed that both of them would make it.
Then certain telltale signs began to show up. Jim’s wife could not shake off all that had happened. She began to pay frequent and lengthy visits to the cemetery. When Jim was called to a different church, she was reluctant to go. She could not leave behind that child's grave, she could not cut the one slender thread that still tied her to the child. And though Jim and his wife did move to a new church field, though his work there was acclaimed too, it was not long before Jim announced that he was tired, that he was fatigued beyond all hope of endurance. He would have to resign that church and do something else, something quieter, something more inward.
I will spare the details, but it became clear there was a time bomb ticking here. Eventually this pastor and his wife divorced. Eventually he went through a series of jobs and ministries. Eventually he left the denomination of which he had been so vital a part and entered an entirely different ministry. So many surprises, so many changes, but both Jim and his wife had become wounded spirits.
Wounded spirits. Wounded spirits are those men and women into whose life something enters that changes them seemingly forever. Wounded spirits are those persons whose life and whose well-being is so invaded by forces beyond their control that they become disabled, disconnected. They cannot function quite like they used to, they cannot shake off the effect of the tragedy, they cannot pull all the tangled threads together; they are wounded spirits.
Losing a child for Jim and his wife and for many others makes for a wounded spirit. For someone else it might be having been fired from a job; in our society a man’s identity and selfhood is so wrapped up in his work that if you are fired, if you are told that your work is unacceptable, you may be so wounded that you cannot get past it. You may not be able to accept so powerful a blow and get on with it all. You become a wounded spirit.
For yet others it might be a divorce that creates the wounded spirit. For someone else it could be a financial disaster that is so crushing that you cannot feel healed even though your bank account by now is healthy. Still, as in the Great Depression of the 1930's, people's lives and hearts become so profoundly affected that they never quite regain their balance. They are wounded spirits.
Again, war for many has become the great devastator of the spirit. How it still astounds us that scores of men and women arrive at that great dark gash in the earth on the Mall and pour out the anguish of their wounded spirits because of Vietnam. A whole generation of Americans now in their thirties and early forties carries a wound in the spirit because of the napalm nightmares and gook gunning they were caught in, and for hundreds these wounded spirits have not healed.
On this day before Pearl Harbor Day, the 7th of December 1941, a day that shall live in infamy; on this day that Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meet to hammer out some kind of arms limitation treaty, we do well to remember that in the heart and consciousness of the Russian nation there is a wounded spirit because of two World Wars, and that however we feel about the Soviet Union politically, however we understand Communism or worry about evil empires, we must remember that the wounded spirit of the Russian people is saying "Never again." Never again will we lose ten million people, ten million brothers and sisters, husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, to the scourge of an invading army. The wounded spirit of a whole nation has not healed.