Love, reconciliation, and healing require vulnerability. I was reminded of this truth in a particular way through an unexpected encounter at Queen Station a couple of months ago with a man I’ll call John. I’m grateful to John for teaching me that I don’t always have to hide my wounds and struggles from those around me. Vulnerability creates space for real connection. It is only when the masks come off and our hands are outstretched – wounds and all – that we enter the space where we can love and be loved. For me, this encounter is a call to reveal all of my wounds to the “Wounded-Healer” who makes “all things new.”
At the top of the Queen Station stairs, John asked me for subway fare. No one was helping him, he said – he had just gotten out of the hospital and was trying to get home. We walked down into the station and made our way past the fare booth onto the Northbound platform.
Looking at John, seated on a red plastic TTC bench, I noticed the tattoos on his forearms. A cross inked on one arm and praying hands on the other. I asked if he was a Christian, but I only made out the first few words of his answer before the noise in the tunnel drowned him out.
The conversation continued as he added something rather abruptly. Sounding embarrassed, he apologized for hiding his hand from me. I hadn’t even noticed. I told him as much as he held out his hand. I saw then what he had tried to hide – rows of pink wounds obscuring the blue-green veins on his hand.
Sitting there beside John, I couldn’t help but recall another scene from earlier that day. It was Sunday and I had spent most of the weekend at a conference. One of the closing speakers, addressing the topic of suffering, referenced a story in the Gospel where Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. In order for the man to be healed, Jesus tells him: “Stretch out your hand.” The woman speaking noted that vulnerability is necessary for healing. In order to be healed, we must first show our wounds to the One who longs to heal us.
I knew the story I heard earlier that day wasn’t meant just for me. I told John this story about the man with a withered hand and asked if he wanted to pray together, but he said, “No – I’m high. I can’t pray when I’m high.” He spoke with sincerity and sadness.
Before we got on the subway, I gave John a bookmark I remembered I had in my purse. A few months ago, a friend of mine had given it to me as a gift. The words on the bookmark – “Stretch out your hand.”