Healing takes time

Published October 1, 2000

WHEN I WAS a boy, I was extremely impatient with the little afflictions of summer.

With my pale complexion, I suffered from sunburn, but I would make it worse by peeling the burnt skin away too soon, thereby ensuring that the next layer would burn more quickly and more painfully.

Short pants and bathing suits meant scrapes and cuts that eventually would form a scab, but I would try to remove it too soon with the result that the healing took longer. Whenever my mother saw me picking a scab, she would be at me to say “Stop!”

Two events this past summer brought these images back to me.

The first was a tiresome injury when I scraped my knees against rocks while getting out of the water after a swim. The bleeding eventually stopped but left me with scabs so ugly that I was too embarrassed to wear shorts even in the hottest weather.

I heeded my mother’s advice and let the scabs take their course, and eventually (but it seemed forever!) my knees became scabless and presentable.

The second event was my attendance at the Sacred Circle, the fourth gathering of indigenous bishops, clergy and lay representatives from across the Anglican Church of Canada.

I have attended all four Circles since they began in 1988, and my assigned role is to speak at the beginning, speak at the end, and in between to listen.

At the 1993 Circle I listened to days of painful stories from residential schools (as well as some good stories) and other tragic situations in the lives of Circle members. I issued the apology authorized by the National Executive Council, and it was followed by a healing service. I presented myself for the laying on of healing hands, and immediately afterwards was invited to join the healers in laying on hands.

The acceptance implicit in that invitation was a sign of beginnings of healing in many of us there.

At the 2000 Circle there were still stories of hurt, but there were many more stories of people who had taken initiative to work at healing for themselves, their families and their communities.

“But,” I think to myself, “what a long time it seems to be taking!”

That’s the impatient child in me speaking.

Healing that really deals with the problem at a level more than skin deep takes a long time, and that is where we Christians have an advantage, even though to the impatient among us it may seem to be a disadvantage.

Our advantage is that we are in for the long haul.

Governments are in for the short haul; four years between elections means they have to work for the quick fix. We have the advantage that long-term work, like apology and forgiveness and true healing, are easier in communities that are established to last.

They happen more surely in communities which intend to stay together through thick and thin, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer.

Jesus’ promise to his disciples is that he is with us always, even to the end of the age.

That is the promise that the Sacred Circle renews every time it gathers.

And in these difficult times it helps me to stop picking at the scabs.Archbishop Michael Peers is Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.


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