By Norris Burkes Oct 9, 2022 By Norris Burkes
Permission is given to reprint if author is credited.
Twelve years ago, only seconds before I took the podium to speak before a Mansfield, Ohio, audience, my host handed me a small envelope from a woman who asked him to relay it to me.
Curious, I opened the decorative card.
“I read your columns,” she wrote. Anticipating a thank you note, I read further.
“I think you’re a liar!” wrote the anonymous woman. “Your column last week sounds impossible and made up.”
What could she possibly think I lied about? I paused a moment to remember the column I’d written about a woman fainting in church.
Today, I’ll relate the column for you. Was it the truth? You can be the judge.
The story recalled my days as a 22-year-old Southern Baptist seminary student when I was invited to preach a “revival” at a local church. In case you didn’t know, a revival is a series of preaching services held every night for a week – guilt delivered in its most concentrated form.
After preaching for six nights, I was in the middle of my last sermon when one of the parishioners loudly announced that a woman had passed out.
Mid-sentence, I quickly stuttered my intent to conclude the service.
“No, no.” I was chided by the woman’s nameless pew mate. “I’m a nurse. I have this handled. Keep preachin’, preacher.”
She nodded her approval, so I set off again, the fervor stirring.
Suddenly, the nurse announced, “Call 911. She’s having a seizure.”
“OK, ladies and gentleman,” I announced, “we must dismiss.”
A nearby deacon overruled my notion. “Keep preaching. The woman does this all the time,” his tone hinting at a psychosomatic cause.
Incredulous, I jumped to the most critical part of my sermon – the “invitation.”
The invitation is the moment during the final hymn when the preacher invites people to to the altar for prayer. Due to the circumstances, I was willing to abbreviate the hymn.
But in a damn-the-torpedo approach, the music director prodded us to sing all six verses of Amazing Grace.
As we began the third verse, the paramedics barged through the front doors and pushed the gurney up the center aisle. They stopped just short of the communion table which was engraved with, “This do in remembrance of me.”
I signaled the director to stop, but he was taking directions from the deacon. “Three more verses” was the order. On the last verse, patient and paramedics made their escape and the service was over.
Afterward, the deacon again assured me this was “a routine Sunday.”
He then pointed his index finger downward to mark a spot where the woman had once lain while parishioners walked over her to get to Sunday Brunch. Upon hearing that, it was all I could do to contain my breath mint.
Some may read this story as an example of how church people will often step over the wounded.
And you might have a valid point.
But the life truth it introduced for me that day was that we are surrounded by a lot of wounded people like this woman. And the only way we can truly help them is to remain in touch with our own woundedness and failures.
The concept was reinforced by my seminary professors who often shared the teachings of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology.
Jung described the “wounded healer” as someone who could promote healing and empathetic understanding by confessing their own woundedness.
Had I been more in touch with my wounds, perhaps I’d have been able to walk alongside this fainting parishioner rather than acting as her superior.
Jung’s ideas may well have been described by the prophet Isaiah when he predicted the coming Messiah.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).
Perhaps that’s the revival preaching-text I should have used because by the end of the week-long services, I can honestly say, the fainting woman was the only person revived.
And that credit goes to the paramedics.
My truth for today.
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