I hear a little voice every once in a while. That voice comes and goes, and when it comes around, I tremble in fear. I’m afraid that one day I’m going to give in and believe what that voice says. I’m afraid that I’ll believe that what I’m doing with my life is a waste. That I’m not worthy of being loved. That I should forget about this whole God and faith thing. What if one day I believe that voice?
As a kid my dad would tell me that I was handicapped because I was a girl. He would tell me that I would be lucky to just finish high school and find a job. I would try to tell him about my dreams, and he would laugh and say that good things didn’t happen to people in our family. His words hurt, and as a kid I was inclined to believe them. But as I got older and figured out what kind of man my dad was, I realized that maybe he was wrong. He had no desire to have a family, didn’t like working, was a racist and beat up my mom if things didn’t go his way. He would tear other people down and wound them and not even care. I don’t understand why he was my dad, but I’ve made peace with it now. I’ve realized that for all the pain he inflicted on me and everyone else that he encountered, he was also wounded as a kid. He never learned that wounds didn’t have to be horrible and ugly forever. He never learned that his wounds, no matter how painful, could help others heal.
In Thornton Wilder’s The Angel That Troubled the Waters, a doctor comes to a pool for healing of his melancholy, gloom and sadness. He moves toward the pool, and the angel stops him and says the moment is not for him. The doctor asks how he can keep on living this way, and the angel asks the doctor where he would be without his wounds. Where would his power be? The angel tells him that his melancholy makes his low voice tremble in the hearts of men. He explains that the very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched, blundering people of this world as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love’s service only wounded soldiers can serve.
Maybe you’ve been hurt and broken on the wheels of living. I think at some point all of us have. If so, I hope that one day you’ll realize that the pain you’ve experienced doesn’t have to be in vain. Every time I look into someone’s eyes and can say I understand why they’re hurting and confused and angry, I thank God. Not for the pain but for the wounds that connect me to this person. The wounds allow me to honestly say that it is because of the pain of my past that I have come running to Him like a little kid, desperate to immerse myself in His love and totally accepting of His grace.
I have made peace with the wounds that will forever exist inside of me. Yes, that little voice will creep up from time to time and tell me that I should just give up and believe all the horrible things my dad said to me as a child. But for now, I choose to ignore that voice. I choose to serve in love’s service. I choose to serve because God desires me to serve just as I am: bent, broken and willing.[Shannon Steele lives and works in Visalia, Calif. She is currently working on her first book, addressing domestic violence and the church’s response. If you have any comments about the issue of domestic violence, whether you’ve been a victim or counseled a victim, please e-mail [email protected].]