The Wonder of Warts

[ 5 ] Comments

by Ray DeGraw

(CC) takomabibelot

It is a basic medical truism that in order to be healed of something that won’t heal naturally on its own, you need to expose the problem that is troubling you to someone who can recognize it and offer assistance that will alleviate your suffering and cure the issue.

As my father used to say:

“Warts won’t go away unless they are treated.”

In spiritual terms, we accept Jesus as the ultimate healer, but I have come to believe that relatively few members understand fully the promises we make when we agree to take His name upon us.

We often translate this as “being Christians,” but “Christ” was only one of his titles – only one of the names by which He is known. It is a title, not necessarily a communicable name. There is not room here to discuss the full implications of this promise and all the names we can emulate, but there is one name that we can assume – no matter our circumstances or limitations:

Healer

We promise to emulate his role of Healer specifically when we promise to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Just like any doctor, however, we simply cannot do this unless we are “open” to the sick and afflicted – unless we are aware of others’ pain and suffering – unless we know why they mourn and what comfort they need – unless we are able to see their warts. We might “fellowship” with each other on Sunday, but if we only see each other at our Sunday best (warts carefully hidden beneath white shirts and ties or well-placed mascara) we completely miss the opportunity for the depth of full fellowship that allows us to act in the spirit of Jesus and assist in His place as a healer.

I am struck by how Jesus healed. He didn’t say, “Lock yourselves in your rooms and ask to be healed,” or “Take this and call me in the morning.”  Rather, He said,

“Come unto me.”

Healing was not an impersonal event focused on diagnosis; it was full of touching, blessing, communicating – on real physicality.

Think about this:

To whom do you feel closest in your ward or branch? Is it because you know their joys and their pain – and they know yours? Is it because you have seen their warts, and they have seen yours? Perhaps, is it because you share a common type of wart – because you have shed a tear together or held each other as life seemed to shake around you? Is it because you have held their hands, embraced them and touched their lives in real, practical and powerful ways?

Now, think of someone to whom you don’t feel close. How much do you really know about them – of their joys, pains, sorrows and stress – their warts? Have your lives played out on parallel tracks – ever in proximity but never in true contact? Finally, has there been a time when you felt completely alone? Was it because there was no one close by with whom you could talk – no one who could share your struggles and your pain – no one who could see your warts and accept you anyway?

We sing the following poignant sentence in one of my favorite hymns:

“In the quiet heart is hidden sorrows that the eye can’t see.”

We can be blessed greatly as we endure to the end – but I believe we can be blessed the most and truly endure well if, and only if, we endure together.

I wonder how many people need help as they struggle to endure, see us each week in our Sunday best, and feel even more inadequate and unable to endure. I wonder how many people struggle to pray daily as an individual and feel debilitating guilt because they are “failures” in this important thing – without realizing just how many other members, even some in leadership positions, share that particular struggle. I wonder how many women feel overwhelming stress and guilt as they exhaust themselves in the unselfish effort to raise children (especially children who face difficulties that often bring judgment from others) – without realizing that many of the women they admire and put on a pedestal share that exact same stress and misplaced guilt. I wonder how many people think their own warts are unique and repulsive, without any recognition that the people all around them in the pews have warts that appear just as hideous to them.

The most terrible, agonizing moment in the life of the Savior appears to have been when He was on the cross – when His Father withdrew His Spirit and Jesus was left alone to exclaim:

“My God. My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?”

He had no warts, but he felt isolated, alone and abandoned – and, perhaps, unloved and unaccepted. If that can happen to someone without warts, is it any wonder that it happens to us?

Few of us struggle so openly and publicly as Jesus did while dying on the cross. Our own fears and pains are not so obvious; often they are carefully hidden behind a smile and a cheerful greeting – or a forbidding intellectuality – or even by a false front of service. Unless we open up and share in others’ lives and risk exposing our warts to those around us, we will never know their loneliness and pain – and they will never know ours. We may continue to live comfortable lives, but I believe those lives will not be fully comforting.

Thank God for warts.

  • Are you any of those people listed above, or like them, who struggle with unseen (or visible) warts?

 

About Ray DeGraw

I am the husband of my high school sweetheart and father of six children. I basically have no life outside of family, work and church - except blogging, which I have been doing actively, to put it mildly, for the past 5 years. I have lived in almost every section of the United States and currently reside in Carson City, NV. I have written at Things of My Soul, Mormon Matters, Times & Seasons and StayLDS.com - and commented more than occasionally at various sites in the Bloggernacle.

5 Responses to The Wonder of Warts

  1. Bonnie says:

    When I was 15 my father almost died of a ruptured brain tumor; for the first 36 hours he simply was dying inexplicably and then when they discovered the cause and after a 30-hour surgery he was alive but recovering. The stress was unbelievable, and I responded by suddenly getting a massive outbreak of warts. They were at the base of every finger around the nail, more than 20 of them all total, and they were large. I used to go to junior high with bandaids on all my fingers – so embarrassed. I have lots of warts now – obvious things about me that nobody could miss – and I’m okay with that most of the time. I had not thought about how much our warts make us human and accessible to each other, but I like that. I feel very warm toward people who have opened up to me, just as you say. It hadn’t occurred to me that they had to have a wart to make that possible. Cool essay.

  2. Susanne Nielsen says:

    WOW. Ray, this made me cry. I needed to hear it! I have felt so inadequate and stressed out recently and you’re re-centered me with your words. I am going to my Savior to find healing. I really, really need it right now.

  3. Ray says:

    Bonnie, that is a great physical example of the principle. Thanks for sharing it.

    Susanne, your comment brought tears to my own eyes. It made the post worth it. When you feel again that healing, “As I have loved you, love one another.”

  4. MSKeller says:

    Perhaps that is what I’m doing here Ray. I’ve never been the type to open up and share what I’m really poor at. Then I started realizing after years in cyber anonymity and joining facebook, the power of transparency (and the safety in it). Knowing that someone struggles also, definitely makes them more accessible. As Americans we love the underdog, we love those who apologize and admit their mistakes and we are very willing to forgive those who recognize when they could and vow to improve. Why is it so difficult to do it ourselves?

    Loved it.

  5. NancyH says:

    You always seem to hit my nails on their heads. Thank you for these powerful insights. I wish we all as Mormons were better at allowing our warts to show. Keep blogging, you help keep me sane!

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