“Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?” When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.”
Henri Nouwen—Bread for the Journey: A Day Book of Wisdom and Faith
When Joel was in his late teens, I arrived at a prayer retreat aware of a deep sadness in my spirit, accompanied by physical exhaustion. We had just surfaced from six intense weeks with Joel—a hospitalization for influenza, a secondary infection of pneumonia two weeks later, followed by three weeks of agitation, aggression, and nights averaging two to three hours of sleep. The manic behavior was a slap in the face—something we thought Joel had moved beyond two years earlier thanks to the right medication. My spirit, exhausted beyond the ability to pray coherently, pleaded with God. Where are you in this mess, God? Haven’t you heard our prayers? How much will you require of us?
As I fussed and fumed under my breath the words to an old hymn ran through my mind:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me
I walked in the woods, and as I walked I meditated on our life with Joel—on this “whole ball of wax” of living with autism, and how I was allowing that wax to be shaped by fear, anger, despair, hopelessness. Finally, I hunkered down in prayer, determined not to get up until I had given the entire ball of wax over to God.
Lord, I cried, I am ready for the fresh wind of your Spirit. I am ready for the heat of your hands to mold me. Dear Lord, this ball of wax that represents our life with Joel is yours. Do with it what you will.
Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. These words became my centering prayer, repeated over and over until I sank into meditation. My internal agitation ceased as my heartbeat slowed along with my breath. A warm, golden light enveloped my body, filling me with peace.
Suddenly, an image arose in my mind’s eye. I saw two hands holding a ball of wax. The wax was golden, soft, and malleable. The hands held the wax gently, warming it, softening it.
The hands began kneading the wax, making a depression in it, hollowing it out. I noticed that most of the work was done with the thumbs. As I watched, the ball slowly became a bowl. Still the thumbs continued to work the wax. Before my eyes the bowl became larger and larger. The wax became so thin in places it turned translucent. The same golden light that had enveloped me moments before shone through the bowl, an unspeakably beautiful sight. Still, the thumbs worked the wax; shaping it, enlarging it, hollowing it.
I realized the hands belonged to God. God was hollowing me through this painful situation with Joel. I knew God wasn’t causing Joel’s brokenness, but was making all things work for good. God was shaping me, making more room for him within me. God was enlarging the space of my tent so that he might tabernacle within me. God’s glory shone through the thin places, places thinned by pain. I was becoming a vessel to hold the waters of the Holy Spirit that I might offer a drink to those who thirst; that I might offer shelter through this hollowed-out bowl I’ve become.
Reflection Exercise: Sit with your hands cupped in front of you on your lap. Imagine that this cup or bowl is the water jar of your life. Ask the Lord to show you what obstacles act as hindrance to your wholeness. It may be fear. It may be anger, or resentment. It may be a tendency toward busyness, or a need to control every detail. Ask the Lord to help you let go of these obstacles. As your water jar empties, imagine it filling with the life-giving waters of the Holy Spirit. Allow yourself to hear the sound of water filling the basin in front of you. Feel the cool, wet freshness of the water. Watch as your water jar continues to fill, filling until it over-flows. Smell the scent of rain-drenched earth surrounding you. Finally, taste the life-giving waters of the Holy Spirit; the only water that will truly slake your thirst. Know that you are a vessel made to hold the waters of the Holy Spirit that you might offer a drink to those who thirst; that you might offer shelter through this hollowed-out bowl you’ve become.
This post is an excerpt from The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities (Judson Press, used with permission). This book has been named a finalist for the 2015 Illumination Awards. The Illumination Book Awards are designed to honor and bring increased recognition to the year’s best new titles written and published with a Christian worldview. Selected as a Silver medalist in the Spirituality category, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities has been praised nationally by Christian leaders involved in disability ministry. As the mother of an adult son with autism, Bolduc understands the challenges. She uses a mosaic metaphor to explore the trials of raising children with disabilities, and the spiritual disciplines as a framework for daily works of healing and restoration, Bite-sized pieces of poetry, scripture, personal narrative and reflection exercises gently lead the reader into a deeper conversation with God.