We are Wounded Healers

Francesca Ursua, MD
“The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”
– Exodus 14:14

Nice sentiment, but I quite like to be moving and on the go and busying myself with this, that, or the other thing. I also certainly have difficulty accepting being fought for. I often tow the line between believing I’ve got to do it all on my own and not wanting anything to be done at all. I am thankful, though, that the Lord’s ways are not my ways and that He is patient, persistent, and gentle in His relentless pursuit of my heart. 

In the summer of 2021, the Lord began to take me on a journey of opening and reexamining wounds which I thought had been through enough iterations of opening and resealing. Despite what I thought, the Lord was revealing that, where I desired for a wound to be sealed and shut, He was calling it to be healed and opened. 

Ok. But why now, Lord? I just came up to breathe from intern year and now is when you want to do this?

As an intern, I was just steps removed from medical student—enough responsibility to write notes and place orders, but still largely learning how everything worked and shielded from a lot of the weight and responsibility of the bigger picture. I had patients of my own, but every decision on their management went through many layers of discussion and oversight. 

As a second year, I would begin to have a place in the bigger picture. I would begin supervising interns and medical students. I would be fewer and fewer levels removed from final decisions in patient care.

Why now? Because if I didn’t see, acknowledge, and seek healing in the wounds of my heart central to my understanding of my identity as beloved, it would not be peace, joy, gentleness, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control, and love that poured through me into those patients, medical students, and interns. Instead, it would be bitterness, pain, fear, doubt, and insecurity. It had already started. I had accumulated and clung to lies about my identity which had come from wounds of unprotectedness, disordered desire, objectification, and use. Out of these, I sought refuge and safety in identity as a woman of service. On the surface, it conveyed an identity of strength and selflessness, but it was rooted in fear and self-doubt. This, of course, was not sustainable or charitable. Just as we are called to see the whole person, not just the symptom, we are made to be whole persons, not just our service.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”
– Psalm 34:19

Another nice sentiment, but how desperately I desired to just not be brokenhearted. How easily I would trade away the closeness of the Lord to just not be brokenhearted. Whether or not I acknowledged it aloud, if I believed that the more distant the Lord was, the less broken the heart would be, what kind of god would I begin to image? A distant fixer.

“Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
– John 20:27

Our Lord was known by His wounds. Our Lord healed by His wounds. Who am I to say that He doesn’t want others to know Him through mine? Who am I to say that the grace that pours through His wounds cannot or should not pour through mine? I must be still and allow Him to come close to my broken heart so that it may be moved by grace in love greater than my own to image the Divine Physician, our Wounded Healer.

We are wounded healers.

Medicine is beginning to see the necessity of acknowledging our wounds and the importance of deep empathy with our coworkers and patients. But the bridge between these two concepts overlying the chasm of connection is only found in the compassion of the cross. Compassion is that buzzword used now so frequently in medicine. Broken down to its roots, it truly means “to suffer with”. The truth of that conjunction “with” necessitates recognition of our own suffering. The healing power of the cross and resurrection doesn’t mean the removal of wounds, but the renewal of and redemption by them.