Monday, March 7, 2011

Chapter 4 - Treating Wounds Not Symptoms

So far we have discovered that part and parcel of mortality is the certainty that we will be mistreated by ourselves and others and thus become wounded.  Brother Dr. John L. Lund[1] once told a story that deeply inspired me and has since comforted so many youth at the Detention Center.  In that talk he described his wonderful hunting dog about which he frequently bragged.  This was a dog that lived to serve his master!  Some acquaintances of John’s suggested he put-his-money-where-his-mouth-is and take them into the field to see for themselves.  This he did, but as they entered the field the dog wouldn’t hunt.  Embarrassed John took the dog home where, on closer examination, he discovered a serious gash across the dog’s chest and foreleg.  It was then apparent that the dog wouldn’t serve his master, not because he was unfaithful, but because he was deeply injured.  At Dr. Lund’s suggestion, I listened with my spiritual ears and discovered that such is true of all of us.  The transformation that occurs from the sweetness of childhood is fraught with wounds and scars.  And the fact that we don’t serve our Master in ways that once seemed natural to us is not because we’re necessarily unfaithful, but because we’ve become so distracted by our various wounds.
Have you ever wondered why you often behave in a manner incongruent with your beliefs?  Could it be that you are wounded in some way and have become distracted from your intent?  Could it be that you have selected unhealthy behaviors to comfort you in your pain?  Could it be that given healing balm, you might recover and return to healthier, more righteous behavior simply because the distracting pain and wary guardedness, no longer exists?
Such was the case with me.  I find it interesting that we often have not identified the source of our pain.  By a sort of traumatic amnesia, we tend to forget, ignore or conceal from ourselves such unpleasant memories from our past.  Additionally, many of us were told how we felt.  When we skin a knee a parent may have told us, “Hop up you’re not hurt.”  Or when we cried from disappointment or embarrassment we may have been told, “Big boys don’t cry.”  Or “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  It was a lie.  But, believing it, we began to suppress our pain and deal with it in healthy and dishonest ways.  Painful though it may be, shouldn't we revisit those memories and discover what caused our pain?
In the year 2000, Disney produced a wonderful movie called The Kid starring Bruce Willis and Spencer Breslin.  Both actors played the part of Russ Duritz, one old and one young (Rusty).  Russ is successful as an accomplished image consultant, but his relationships were a shambles.  In a mystical warp of time, Rusty appears on Russ’s doorstep one day.  After some antics, they put the pieces together and realize they are one and the same.  Russ’ objective of course is to get Rusty out of his life.  He begins to surmise that he needs to help Rusty with some of his childhood issues, things like bullies and the general morass of whimpiness.  Rusty on the other hand is thoroughly disappointed with Russ, who has neither wife, nor dog, nor airplane; the focus of his childhood dreams.  “I grow up to be a loser,” he laments to Russ.
In a wonderful scene they wind up back in the old neighborhood.  Rusty has been suspended from school and his mother has been called from her sick bed to collect him and take him home.  The scene unfolds as Rusty and his Mom are entering their house.  Dad arrives and in a fit of fury screams and yells at Rusty for being such a problem child.  Rusty is heartbroken to have disappointed his Dad, but he’s also bitter to have been so harshly judged and mistreated. 
Throughout the scene, Russ is observing from the street.  Russ knows some things that Rusty doesn’t.  Russ knows that Mom is dying of cancer.  Russ is now mature enough to realize that Mom’s illness places enormous stress on his Dad.  Russ knows that his parents had not told Rusty about his mother’s terminal illness and compassionately surmises that they simply did not know how.  Russ realizes that he has never pulled that horrible childhood memory and others from those dark days, out into the light of adulthood and reexamined them from the perspective of maturity and subsequent evidence.  Now, by some miracle, he has done so and this cathartic process of discovery goes a long way toward identifying and then healing his previously neglected wounds.  I’ll let you watch the film to see how it all turns out.
The Fourth of the 12 Steps was very useful in helping me make similarly cathartic realizations about my past.  Not only did it allow me to sort out the causes of my pain, it allowed me to understand, forgive and be forgiven.  Much of this process involves an honest, fearless look into our past.  Honesty invites the companionship of the Spirit and the presence of the Holy Ghost, is healing balm indeed.  He can, in the process of revelation and sanctification prepare us for the healing ministrations that come as we invite the Savior to apply the intimate majesty of the Atonement in our lives.
It is time to clean out our emotional basements where the detritus of a lifetime has accumulated and bogged us down.  Often these days, we hear such advice in its literal sense.  The uncluttering our physical lives can lead to the uncluttering of our emotional and spiritual ones.  It is all baggage that burdens us and makes us less useful and productive.  It harbors wounds that keep us from serving the Master we would otherwise be eager to serve.
The following year John Lund took his dog back into the field.  Healed, the dog hunted like a champion and once again experienced the joy of fully, heartily serving his beloved master.
I have seen this happen to many wounded and damaged souls.  Once healed it seems to be everyone’s instinctive inclination to serve the Master who healed them.  It is the automatic outcome of getting acquainted with Him in our extremity.  It is the intrinsic outflow of choosing to become willing to expose our tender spots to His ministrations and healing touch.  It becomes our divine expression of gratitude.  I had to carefully select the descriptors in these recent sentences because I wanted to avoid the use of nature and natural.  “The natural man is an enemy to God[2],” and this is the healing that helps us overcome the natural man and become a friend to God.
I had an acquaintance at work that became addicted to Methamphetamines.  His decline was swift and devastating.  He was living a promiscuous, immoral life and was sustaining his evil ambitions with artificial energy derived from the drug.  Of course, in the end it sapped the strength of his body as well as his character.  He dwindled to near 100 pounds.  His teeth were rotten and falling out.  He was a mess.  One day the boss fired him and he dropped out of sight.  I assumed he crawled into a hole and died somewhere.
Years later I walked into a 12 Step meeting where I spotted a familiar face I couldn’t exactly place.  Introducing myself I was shocked to discover it was this same man.  He was robust and healthy.  He had a pleasant, attractive smile.  It was him alright and you could have blown me over with a feather.  When it came his turn to share, he apologized for missing the last meeting with these words:  “I had to decide whether to come here to go the Temple.  After much prayer I concluded that God would be most pleased if I served that night in His holy house.”
My friends grievous, near fatal wounds had been healed.  And he was back to eagerly serving his Master.

[1] The Best of Dr. John L. Lund, by John L. Lund, Talk on CD, Deseret Book Company

[2] Mosiah 3:19

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