The Wounded Healer

October 19, 2009 at 5:09 pm Leave a comment

Blue hills  It is 1962.  The Cuban missile crisis has thousands sitting on the edges of their seats, anti-apartheidist Nelson Mandela is jailed in South Africa, and a baby named Suzanne is born in a Midwestern U.S. capital.  The nation’s children are not yet being exposed to an amoral, uncensored media blitzkrieg, but American society is on the threshold of an aggressive assault on traditional beliefs.

Meanwhile, Suzanne’s family is being led in a different direction.  Her older brother becomes a believer and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school, and Suzanne, at age nine, finds herself moved by Billy Graham television specials.  Their changing hearts reflect a process that, “went beyond religion.  God was pursuing our family.  Looking back on the family’s history, you can clearly see it,” she explains. 

Suzanne’s 1980 graduation from high school is accompanied by a growing passion to do mission work, and a sense of urgency inspires her to finish her education quickly, without amassing an ocean of debt.  A three-year program in biblical studies that allows her to attend classes at night and work during the day fits the bill.  And things do hasten along, with graduation followed closely by marriage, the birth of her first child, and a call to India.

“India as a destination was not initially appealing to me,” she says now about her expectation that her young family would be sent somewhere a little less exotic and a little closer to home.  At the time, she reminded herself, “to be sensitive to God’s will,” and to allow the earnestness with which she accepted her “burden” to spur her on.  Once settled in the Himalayas, she and her husband do their share  of “breaking rocks and praying” as they assist local pastors with adult bible school, help build churches, and encourage fellow believers.

Their Spartan way of life is eased by miraculous demonstrations of God’s nurturing care:  local offerings help stretch a $300.00 base monthly salary, and a difficult pregnancy provides opportunities for multiple examples of Divine intervention. 

“An Australian doctor at the local hospital was scheduled to deliver my second daughter, but the baby ended up being 2-1/2 weeks late,” says Suzanne.  When a family emergency calls him back to Australia, her care is turned over to a local ophthalmologist who has only participated in two cesarean sections.  Meanwhile, a violent storm hits, knocking out the electricity at a hospital that already lacked food and running water.

Just as the situation appears desperately critical, another mission doctor senses a problem from his remote location.  Knowing that there would be no attempt to correct the energy outage until the storms passed, he and another man break into the local power station and restore electricity at 2:00 a.m., in time to save mother and child.  “We learned months later of these efforts to get the power up and running.  It had to have been the Holy Spirit working on his heart; there were no phones, no way of knowing what was happening down the mountainside,” Suzanne explains.

The ophthalmologist performs surgery under local anesthesia, and nurses whisk the baby away immediately.  In Indian culture, having a female child is cause for consolation, not celebration; the staff will need to prepare the parents for this “letdown.”  Suzanne and her husband try to sustain their private joy, but the worst is yet to come.

Following more surgery to repair a torn bladder, the doctor – fearful that the patient will not survive – advises Suzanne’s husband to stay with his wife and daughter.  For five days she is tethered to two I.V.s while trying to care for her newborn, but she fails to regain strength and infection disrupts the healing process.

Housed in the hospital the room next door, the two elderly missionary ladies who have spent 50 years in India soon realize that they are there in that place, at that time, so they can know of Suzanne’s need for their prayers.  They petition continuously for her recovery.

At this point, “I had a moment with God,” Suzanne says.  He was giving her the option of coming home to Him.  “I looked down at my baby and thought, ‘I’d really like to raise this little girl.'”  From that time forward, she improves steadily.  And in yet another dramatic twist, the Australian doctor returns in time to stop scheduled blood transfusions, which at the time are not being screened for HIV and other infectious diseases.  “God, once again, preserved me,” she declares with a grateful smile.

Over the course of their time in India, Suzanne delivers her next two children naturally – another set of miracles for this young mother who had been told she would require cesareans for all future pregnancies – and she and her husband have their initial question, “Lord, why are we here?” answered, when the dictum, “One man plants seeds, another man waters, and God causes the growth,” plays out before them. 

Back in the United States and fifteen years into her marriage, Suzanne is bewildered by the way her own life is playing out as her husband is slowly consumed by an alcohol addiction.   “He fell away from the Lord,” she says quietly.  Although outsiders can see only his public self, and cling to the belief that he is still “the amazing man that he had been,” the family gradually loses their business, their home, and their vehicles.

For eight years, Suzanne tries everything – counseling, prayer, reasoning – asking herself the same question others have asked:  How can women lose a husband to alcohol?  Following two-and-a-half years of separation, Suzanne completes the long process of a very difficult divorce, and the process of mourning her loss.  “With God’s help, I learned to become a wounded healer through that experience.  He is giving me back what the locusts have eaten.”  (Joel 2:25)

Armed with her faith and her edifying personal experiences, Suzanne spends the month of August, 2009, in Africa presenting bible studies, discussing abuse and addictions with local women, and teaching them how to make products for use by their own families and for sale to others.  She almost doesn’t make this trip, however.  When her oldest daughter, nearing the end of her own mission assignment in Kenya, first invites, then implores, Suzanne to come, she declines.  “I told her, ‘There are too many mountains.  If God moves the mountains, then maybe.’ And God moved the mountains!”               

The African women initially respond to her with wariness, saying, “Oh, you [white, middle class American] women don’t have problems like ours.”  As she shares her personal struggles, they turn around in their thinking, telling her, “You’re the first who can really identify with us.”  This connection leads the women to be more open to Suzanne’s pivotal message that God watches over us – “When you have prayed all the prayers and cried all the tears, and the only word that can be uttered is ‘help,’ think of the throne of God.  Bow at his feet and climb up into his lap and let him hold you”; and He pursues us – “God will not interfere with your freedom of choice, but, as we yield our lives to the Lord, He is able to daily meet our needs, heal, restore and love us.”                                                                                                   

 Today, Suzanne looks back on her life with gratitude, and with a transformed understanding of the Lord’s position in her life:  “God has become my husband, my protector, my provider; the father to my children.”  As those children blossom under this guardianship, they, too, are learning to deal with life’s disappointments with maturity and grace.

 The bottom line for Suzanne?  “Jesus can take away pain.  I have a large scar from the cesarean.  That scar is a constant reminder of a difficult birth, but the pain is gone.”  She views her emotional scars in the same way – as reminders that will always be with her, while the pain recedes into the past.  

So when Suzanne says serenely, “I am a wounded healer,” there is no trace of self-pity in her tone.  It is a statement of fact; a description of her role.  An example of God working all things to our good.

Entry filed under: People of Faith and Courage. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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