Sooner or later, we will all be wounded. Wealth and good fortune can only protect us for a while, if we are that lucky. Eventually, we will experience a devastating loss, a divorce, a death, a disaster, an addiction, an encounter with the law, a bad car accident, financial troubles, an assault, mental illness, family secrets, a betrayal or something else. There will come a day when we will feel destroyed and deeply wounded by life.
Gwen genetically inherited the disease of alcoholism. There were sober alcoholics in her family, including her older brother. As soon as she began drinking at age twenty-five, she had no “off switch” and her capacity for alcohol was large with little affect. She married a man who drank like her. Their marriage centered around drinking. When Gwen realized that something was wrong, she suggested that they go to marriage counseling. Right away, the counselor suggested that they cut their drinking in half that week. The next week, he suggested the same – in half again. Gwen’s husband decided to quit the counseling and continue drinking, while Gwen decided to get sober with a supportive community and go to Alcoholics Anonymous. She did not want to “white knuckle” quitting drinking by herself. She was devastated by “hitting bottom” and learning about her addiction because she did not want to be like her brother, her sibling rival. Her marriage ended in a divorce and Gwen continued to seek counseling for support. Also, the divorce challenged her basic notion of how life worked. She had previously thought that if you worked hard enough, life (e.g. relationships, jobs, etc.) would work out and others would automatically love and appreciate you. This was not the case in her marriage; her husband had left her. Gwen’s whole worldview was demolished.
The great German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart wrote, “To get at the core of God at God’s greatest, one must first get into the core of oneself at one’s least.” Why? When we are at our places of greatest vulnerability, our broken places, where we surrender, that is where God enters in. Several writers have remarked that God comes through the wound. “We need to experience this wound to earn access to our highest nature. God comes through the wound. God comes through experiencing death. Something needs to die so that we may live.” (Marcella Bokur Weiner and Mark B. Simmons in “The Problem is the Solution: A Jungian Approach to a Meaningful Life) After the death, there can be a new and different life.
Gwen was deeply humbled by the experience of divorce and the recognition that she was an alcoholic. She had to learn to accept herself as a wounded, broken person among other wounded and broken people around her, no better or worse than them. It was not a matter of trying harder to make a marriage work or being better educated to avoid the disease of alcoholism. In the depths of this time, human beings were God’s language to her. (Rabbi Harold Kushner) Her AA sponsor helped her to understand alcoholism as a disease and not a moral failing, something she brought upon herself. Others in AA also helped her work through her shame over her divorce and find forgiveness for herself. Following the Twelve Steps helped Gwen to cope with her personal guilt and shame. Her misery no longer blocked her relationship with God and she began to feel a new honesty in relationship with herself, others and God. All three relationships were connected. Gwen’s ego felt right-sized. It was as if she had been through a death experience and found a new life.
If anyone had said to Gwen, before all this had happened to her, that God would draw closer to her through a divorce and alcoholism, she probably would have said they were crazy. Yet, in retrospect, many of us can see that God comes through the wound, whatever the wound, and now we are more alive than ever.
Wherever you are on your path of life, feeling that something is wrong, or feeling wounded and broken, or discovering healing and new life, may you find the One who draws near and comes through the wound to bring new life.