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The Wonder of Warts

It is a basic medical truism that you cannot be cured of an illness unless you go to a doctor ? or someone else who can heal you. In order to be healed, 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. Also, it is a title, NOT a communicable name. There is not room here to discuss the full implications of this promise, but there is one name that we can assume – no matter our circumstances or limitations. It is Healer.

We promise to assume his role of Healer specifically when we promise to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Just like any doctor, however, we simply cannot do this unless we are open ? to the sick and afflicted (either to their visits or through our own house calls) – unless we are aware of someone else ?s 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 and well-placed mascara – we completely miss the opportunity for the depth of full fellowship that allows us to act in the place of Jesus and serve in His stead.

I am struck by how Jesus healed. He didn ?t say, Lock yourselves in your rooms and ask to be healed, ? or “Take two aspirin, and call me in the morning.” Rather, He said, Come unto me, ? and “Walk with me.” Healing was not an impersonal event; it was full of touching and blessing and communicating and real physicality.

Think about it: To whom do you feel closest, especially 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 their life seemed to shake around them? Is it because you have held their hand, embraced them and touched their lives in real and 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 and pains and 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 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. We sing, “In the quiet heart is hidden sorrows that the eye can’t see.” 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 righteous children ? without realizing that many of the women they admire and put on a pedestal share that exact same stress and 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 as their own.

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 and 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. 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 each other ?s lives and risk exposing our warts to those around us, we will never know their loneliness and pain – and they will never know ours – and neither of us will be healed. We may continue to live comfortable lives, but I believe those lives will not be comforting.

Thank God for warts.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • kiar January 29, 2008, 7:15 pm

    heck, I like my warts. I have never attemted to hide them, only to heal them. And you are right, the only way to do that, is to follow Christ, and believe that we can be healed by him. I look at my warts as a way to teach others how NOT to be. If I can use my downfalls as a way to show someone the consequences of a wrong turn, I have saved them some heartache.

  • davidson January 29, 2008, 10:24 pm

    Ray, I really enjoyed this. It was thoughtful and worded well and all SOOOO true. Thank you.

  • Ray January 30, 2008, 1:13 pm

    “I look at my warts as a way to teach others how NOT to be.” What a wonderful way to phrase that, Kiar. Exposing our warts also helps others avoid getting them. Nice!

    Thanks, davidson.

  • Yvette January 31, 2008, 8:43 am

    Thanks for this post. It resonated with me. I ?ve been thinking about sorrows and comforts recently. I hope this isn ?t too long of a comment to leave. I have two things that I wanted to share.

    1) I have a friend who has some trials in her life right now and she has a lot of pain. I want to comfort her and help her through this but I don ?t know how. I ?ve tried to reach out to her but she doesn ?t accept my invitations. I hate that she ?s feeling stress and pain and I want to help but I don ?t know how. I miss her friendship as well, I feel like things aren’t what they used to be. I ?d appreciate any advice that people may have on the issue.

    2) I also have some secret pain of my own. I have a family member who is struggling with a sin. They are trying to overcome this sin and meeting with the Bishop. It ?s so hard sometimes because no one, except the Bishop, knows about this sin. I feel like I can ?t tell anyone about it because it ?s a sin and we shouldn ?t broadcast our sins (plus, it’s not mine to share). In addition, I love this person. I don ?t want anyone to think less of them because of this sin. Sometimes I feel like I am struggling with the pain of this sin alone because no one else knows about it. Yes, I know I can pray for comfort and be blessed with peace, but sometimes, it would be nice to hear from someone who will verbally respond to me.

    And I also feel fake sometimes and I don ?t think that I am alone in this. I feel like everyone goes to church and acts like everything is great and smiles and acts like they don ?t have any problems. However, I do have problems/pain and I think others do too. If people would share more, I think it would help all of us overcome the challenges we are facing. But how do you share when your pain comes from sin of someone that everyone knows and who has held a leadership position in the ward?

  • davidson January 31, 2008, 9:35 am

    Dear, sweet Yvette, you are welcome here, and you can always talk to us. I get a lot of valuable help in that respect at this website. You are not alone! How lucky this person is to have you to love him or her and to stand by loyally while they find themselves again. I know it is breaking your heart. How wise that person is to recognize a serious problem and be brave enough to go for the cure. Some never do.

    Concerning your friend: isn’t it interesting, the different manner in which people handle pain in their lives? Some reach out. Some withdraw. Something in us wants to offer the type of help we would appreciate ourselves, and it sort of hurts when that is rejected. Things probably don’t seem to be as they used to be because SHE isn’t who she used to be. Pain changes us, for good or ill. Don’t be discouraged. Pray for her, and continue to just stand by until she needs you. Our baptismal covenant talks about being WILLING to mourn with those that mourn, which you are doing.

    THE FRIEND WHO JUST STANDS BY

    When trouble comes, your soul to try,
    You love the friend who just “stands by.”
    Perhaps there’s nothing she can do–
    the thing is strictly up to you;
    for there are troubles all your own,
    and paths the soul must tread alone;
    times when love cannot smooth the road,
    nor friendship lift the heavy load,
    but just to know you have a friend
    who will “stand by” until the end,
    whose sympathy through all endures,
    whose warm handclasp is always yours–
    it helps, some way, to pull you through,
    although there’s nothing she can do.
    And so, with fervent heart you cry,
    “God bless the friend who just stands by.”

    B.Y. Williams

    We do it, don’t we. We paste our smiles on and go to church and pretend like everything is wonderful. It’s okay. Church is a place where we go to practice being who we want to be.
    Of course, we want to be people who handle our difficulties with patience and faith and dignity, sometimes even silent dignity, and we practice that at church. It isn’t necessarily a lie; it is more a seeking of the best that is in us. But it does your heart good, doesn’t it, to know that beneath the smiling faces are people who are trying to be brave and not cry, people who struggle like we do,
    people who are scared but won’t quit. The Spirit tells us when it is appropriate to share our difficulties, and we draw strength from the courage of others. At least I know I do.

    When I went to girls’ camp one year, one of the women told me, late at night, that her husband had a problem with pornography. What a painful thing for her. He was a leader in the ward, and my first reaction was shock. I watched, over the year, as he went to the bishop and made his changes. Several months later, he was called to be the bishop of the ward. And I am certain he was worthy! How wonderful, that the Lord can still use us after we sincerely repent! It gives credence to the idea that our sins won’t be mentioned to us any more when we complete the worthiness process. There is life after repentance, good life.

    That family member who is struggling? He or she needs your love and acceptance and ecouragement and total forgiveness now, more than at any other time in his or her life; that is the action that will be most effective towards having the outcome you hope for. It might be hard to muster that, but if you pray for it, God can put it in your heart. It is a gift He is anxious to give.

    Hugs to you, love.

  • Yvette January 31, 2008, 7:12 pm

    I really appreciate your response Davidson. It really touched me and was what I needed. Even if I can’t share my pain with my friends in person, I’m grateful for the guidance and comfort from online friends.

  • davidson January 31, 2008, 10:01 pm

    I will pray for you, dear.

  • Ray January 31, 2008, 10:05 pm

    Fwiw, this and a couple of other comment threads here are great examples of what I’m talking about in this post.

  • Yvette February 1, 2008, 2:21 pm

    Yes, I think it’s great that you opened up this discussion. Your post was well written and had great insights.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 1, 2008, 2:32 pm

    Welcome, Yvette!

  • Ray February 2, 2008, 8:01 pm

    Yes, Yvette, welcome.

  • Yvette February 23, 2008, 9:19 pm

    I don’t know if people are still reading this post, but…

    Two of my (lds) friends just announced that they were getting divorced from each other. I feel so heart broken about the situation. They always appeared so happy and kind to each other. I had no idea that they were even having any problems. I can’t help but wonder, if we were more open about our problems/warts if it would have helped them work through their problems.

  • kiar February 23, 2008, 9:30 pm

    sometimes, there is nothing you can do, but be there for them. I don’t know how you feel about talking to them, but perhaps, if they know that there is someone there for them without judgment, they could open up. Maybe printing Rays post could help. Sometimes people put on a front, and refuse to acknowledge the fast that they have “warts” and then the warts just get bigger. I am sad for them, and for you, to have to see this happen. I hope you can find a way to help, or to find peace of mind for yourself. (when we are faced with the “D” word, we tend to get insecure in our own thoughts)
    My prayers are with you and your friends. Trust Heavenly Father, and it will all work out.

  • Ray February 23, 2008, 10:29 pm

    Yvette, I tell people not to assume that someone else’s problems (including divorce) are related to their own failings or shortcomings. Sure, “perhaps” someone might have been able to help more if their own warts were known (and I obviously believe in not hiding our warts), but to go from that to “they wouldn’t have gotten divorced if I had been more open about my own problems” is a destructive stretch, imo.

    Fwiw, a productive life is productive explicitly because it is lived on a teeter-totter – constantly being adjusted as the weight on each side changes. It’s not meant to be easy, and we will NEVER know if we really did the absolute best we could to keep others from making mistakes in their lives. All we can do is try the best we can with the knowledge we have at any given time. We can’t change the past; we only can change the future by learning from the past.

    In the immortal words of The Man in Black, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.” I believe strongly that the truest growth is obtained in the muddle of the middle – in the same place as the hardest pain. Without living with exposure to the pain, the growth is not possible.

  • Lisa February 23, 2008, 11:28 pm

    Posted By: RayIn the immortal words of The Man in Black, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.” I believe strongly that the truest growth is obtained in the muddle of the middle – in the same place as the hardest pain. Without living with exposure to the pain, the growth is not possible.

    Loved these thoughts!!! And ya gotta love Princess Bride quotes in a gospel context!!! I have been learning myself that sometimes the only way to remove my “Mt. Zerins” is to tunnel, dig, and mine straight through them! Tough work.

  • Ray February 23, 2008, 11:59 pm

    The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion mostly because The Princess Bride had not been been written yet.

    (To back that statement’s truthfulness, I would not bet.)

  • Ray February 24, 2008, 12:03 am

    and, no, I am not ducking lightening that suddenly struck this area. I have to believe that The Princess Bride is on God’s bookshelf.

  • davidson February 24, 2008, 1:54 pm

    Oh, Yvette, hugs to you for being such a kind and caring friend. The goodness of your heart is showing. I bet those two people are glad to have you for their friend, and I hope you will stand by them and encourage them by continuing to be there for both of them. You know? I don’t think there’s anything we can do, sometimes, to make a difference in the outcome, and you don’t need to feel guilty. You are what you need to be for them: a kind and concerned friend who won’t treat them like they have leprosy. My visiting teaching partner is the sweetest, kindest lady, so softspoken and gentle. Her husband had an affair with another woman in our ward (who was also married.) There were two divorces, 13 hurt children, and years and years of repercussions. I worried so much about my visiting teaching partner friend, until I heard her quietly say this: “I was willing to stay married to that man for the duration of earth-life,if I had to, but I begged the Lord on bended knee to not insist that I stay with him for eternity.” She felt that way BEFORE he had the affair. Wow. She is the kind of person who never says anything bad about anybody, and for her to say that, it let me know that there were many, many things we hadn’t seen. Her husband seemed to have a testimony, and he was an excellent teacher of the youth, but I guess we just didn’t see what went on behind closed doors. I still don’t know, and I don’t need to know. It just opened my eyes to the fact that usually there is more going on than what we see from the outside looking in. It sounds crass to say, but sometimes divorce is the best answer. It was a bishop who advised me to get a divorce–not exactly your everyday bishop’s counsel. It is hard to be the exception. And most of the time it is probably true that couples should forgive each other and try to work things out, as our prophets have counseled. But nothing hurts more than being misunderstood when you ARE following counsel.

    The same thing is true of people who commit suicide. We always feel so sad, and even guilty, wishing we had done something to help prevent it. I think the vast majority of people who commit suicide are acting beyond reason. I think the vast majority of people who commit suicide are seriously mentally ill and not acting within the bounds of agency. We can only be held accountable when we have “an unfettered power to choose.” My grandfather commited suicide, and he was the sweetest temple-going little man you ever met. He was sick. So did my sister-in-law. She was suffering from post-partum psychosis, which affects one in a thousand women, according to statistics. She was also an active member of the church and mother to three children whom she loved very much. No amount of kindness could have saved them from that end, in my opinion. Their illnesses changed them into people whom they were not. I also firmly believe that they will not be held accountable for what they did.

    Yvette, wrap your arms around yourself and assure you that you’ve probably done all that can be done by being a good friend. Jesus would be proud of you.

  • Yvette March 5, 2008, 8:56 am

    Thanks everyone for your comments and sharing your experiences.

    I tell people not to assume that someone else’s problems (including divorce) are related to their own failings or shortcomings. Sure, “perhaps” someone might have been able to help more if their own warts were known (and I obviously believe in not hiding our warts), but to go from that to “they wouldn’t have gotten divorced if I had been more open about my own problems” is a destructive stretch, imo.

    That’s good advice and important to keep things in perspective. I do think that by sharing our problems we can help each other learn how we got through similar rough times. And learning is an effort. It’s easier to go the other way on the spectrum — just to complain about our problems and focus solely on the negative such that we can’t see the forest from the trees.

    In my head, I know that I could not have done anything to “save” their marriage. They are responsible for their choices. But sometimes I want to take away their pain. I am reminded of the Plan of Salvation and remember that being able to experience pain and suffering was part of it. It does make me think about why we are going through everything here on earth and wonder what awaits us.

    I think it’s hit home because I haven’t had the easiest marriage and no one (except the Bishop) knows about it. We’ve been working through our problems and are gradually doing better. I guess I wish the answer for us is/was the same answer for them.

    But nothing hurts more than being misunderstood when you ARE following counsel.

    That was one the exact sentiments of my friend. It’s interesting how in Church we are told we shouldn’t judge each other and yet we/people still do it so often. In theory it seems so easy, but in practice it doesn’t seem to happen as often as it should. As if your trial isn’t enough, having people judge you during your trials just adds to the burden.

  • davidson March 5, 2008, 9:17 am

    It is hard to understand, isn’t it, why the Lord would counsel one couple to get a divorce and one couple to stay together. It’s hard to understand why He would direct that one person should be excommunicated, and another should be put on probation, or no action is taken at all–for committing the same sin. Trust is a difficult leap to take sometimes. My heart aches for you. I understand better than you think I do. I am praying for you, sweet Yvette, and for your husband, too.

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