The Wonder of Warts
by Ray DeGraw
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:
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?