Friday, October 5, 2007

The Wonder of Warts

It is a basic medical truism that you cannot be cured of an illness unless you go to a doctor – or someone else who can heal you. In order to be healed, you need to expose the problem that is troubling you to someone who can recognize it and offer assistance that will alleviate your suffering and cure the issue. As my father used to say, “Warts won’t go away unless they are treated.”

In spiritual terms, we accept Jesus as the ultimate healer, but I have come to believe that relatively few members understand fully the promises we make when we agree to take His name upon us. We often translate this as “being Christians,” but “Christ” was only one of his titles - only one of the names by which He is known. It is a title, not necessarily a communicable name. There is not room here to discuss the full implications of this promise, but there is one name that we can assume - no matter our circumstances or limitations. It is Healer.

We promise to assume his role of Healer specifically when we promise to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Just like any doctor, however, we simply cannot do this unless we are “open” to the sick and afflicted (either to their visits or through our own house calls) - unless we are aware of someone else’s pain and suffering – unless we know why they mourn and what comfort they need - unless we are able to see their warts. We might “fellowship” with each other on Sunday, but if we only see each other at our Sunday best - warts carefully hidden beneath white shirts and ties and well-placed mascara - we completely miss the opportunity for the depth of full fellowship that allows us to act in the place of Jesus and serve in His stead.

I am struck by how Jesus healed. He didn’t say, “Lock yourselves in your rooms and ask to be healed.” Rather, He said, “Come unto me.” Healing was not an impersonal event; it was full of touching and blessing and communicating and real physicality.

Think about it: To whom do you feel closest in your ward or branch? Is it because you know their joys and their pain - and they know yours? Is it because you have seen their warts, and they have seen yours? Perhaps, is it because you share a common type of wart - because you have shed a tear together or held each other as their life seemed to shake around them? Is it because you have held their hand, embraced them and touched their lives in real and practical and powerful ways?

Now, think of someone to whom you don’t feel close. How much do you really know about them – of their joys and pains and sorrows and stress - their warts? Have your lives played out on parallel tracks - ever in proximity but never in true contact? Finally, has there been a time when you felt completely alone? Was it because there was no one close by with whom you could talk – no one who could share your struggles and your pain - no one who could see your warts and accept you anyway?

We can be blessed greatly as we endure to the end – but I believe we can be blessed the most and truly endure well if, and only if, we endure together. We sing, "In the quiet heart is hidden sorrows that the eye can't see." I wonder how many people need help as they struggle to endure, see us each week in our Sunday best, and feel even more inadequate and unable to endure. I wonder how many people struggle to pray daily as an individual and feel debilitating guilt because they are “failures” in this important thing – without realizing just how many other members, even some in leadership positions, share that particular struggle. I wonder how many women feel overwhelming stress and guilt as they exhaust themselves in the unselfish effort to raise righteous children – without realizing that many of the women they admire and put on a pedestal share that exact same stress and guilt. I wonder how many people think their own warts are unique and repulsive, without any recognition that the people all around them in the pews have warts that appear just as hideous as their own.

The most terrible, agonizing moment in the life of the Savior appears to have been when He was on the cross - when His Father withdrew His Spirit and Jesus was left alone to exclaim, “My God. My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” He had no warts, but he felt isolated and alone and abandoned and, perhaps, unloved and unaccepted. If that can happen to someone without warts, is it any wonder that it happens to us?

Few of us struggle so openly and publicly. Our own fears and pains are not so obvious; often they are carefully hidden behind a smile and a cheerful greeting - or a forbidding intellectuality - or even by a false front of service. Unless we open up and share in each other’s lives and risk exposing our warts to those around us, we will never know their loneliness and pain - and they will never know ours. We may continue to live comfortable lives, but I believe those lives will not be comforting.

Thank God for warts.


Louann and Bari said...

That was beautiful-warts and all.

carrie said...

wow ray...incredibly insightful. two thumbs up! i have moles too. lots of them. :)

Patty said...

You hit the nail right on the head on this one. I feel so blessed when I know someone well enough for us to share our warts with each other. We really do need to be open to the love and acceptance that we can give and receive by sharing more of our lives with those around us. I'm especially grateful when I'm allowed to serve someone else and am given a deeper sense of compassion and charity for them. Thanks for the beautiful reminder!

Melissa said...

What a beautiful post.