Read: Genesis 1:26-27; John 1:11-12
When I fell and broke my arm close to my shoulder, I was told from the get-go that even when healing came, I would have diminished range of motion. When it was safe to do exercises to strengthen my arm, I did what I could, and I saw great improvement as to what I could do. Thank You Lord for Your help and strength. Even so, the doctor was correct, and though my arm has healed, what I can do now is less than what I was able to accomplish prior to my breaking it. There is healing but not wholeness, and that is true for countless people not only physically but also emotionally.
I was reminded of that fact this morning when I heard about Henry Aaron's death. What a storied life he lived. He began his career in the Negro League. Then because of his obvious giftedness, he was signed by the Milwaukee Braves. That was the beginning of what would be a record setting career. My husband and his father were watching the game on TV when Henry Aaron had his most incredible public moment of all. That April day in 1974 when the famous baseball superstar eclipsed Babe Ruth's home run total. The day he hit 715 round-trippers. Although that was great fun to watch, the experience for Mr. Aaron was far from a joyous one.
As I read several articles about Henry Aaron's life, I was reminded of the ugly racism that he endured, especially during the days that preceded his breaking Ruth's record. That was when Henry Aaron received so much mail that he broke the Guinness World Record for number of pieces received by someone who was not a politician. His secretary became full-time so she could deal with the more than 900,000 pieces of mail that came his way. Sadly, hundreds and hundreds of the letters were laced with venomous remarks and threats. Aaron, during that time of his life feared for the safety of both his wife and children. The demeaning words that Henry Aaron both heard and read left lifelong wounds. He even kept some of the letters. They were both motivation and reminders of the racism that he endured. Even the day when he broke Babe Ruth's record was not joyful because of the emotional pain and fear that had choked it out. Yet, Henry Aaron helped raise five children and was a successful businessman and a kind and generous philanthropist. He worked in the Atlanta Braves organization for many years after his days of playing baseball came to an end. No doubt this man who loved Jesus experienced the healing and sustaining grace that God gives. Yet, he carried the pain he received from the actions of some who didn't believe the truth that every man, woman, boy and girl is made in the image of God, Genesis 1:26-27. Praise God that as far as we can humanly know, Henry Aaron is now with his Savior. He is now experiencing a wholeness and joy that he could have not imagined here on earth, Psalm 16:11.
Thinking about Henry Aaron's story makes me wonder. How many people with whom we interact are healed but have broken places? No, we can't undo the hurt or fix the wounds that continue to ache, but can we soothe their pain with our words and actions and even our listening? After all, doesn't Jesus do all these things for us? He listens to us as we talk with Him, 1 John 5:14-15. He speaks words of truth to comfort and encourage us through the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. He gives us good gifts to enjoy, James 1:17; 2 Timothy 6:17.
Today I was talking to a friend. There are many things going on in her life that can't be changed or easily fixed at this time. However, something she said really made me think. Yesterday, someone whom she had just met, really listened to her. The listener really wasn't able to change her circumstances; however, tears filled my friend's eyes as she related how good it was when someone really took the time to hear what she is going through and offer a simple encouraging word.
The easiest thing to do is tell someone to "just get over it." Whatever the "it" might be. Perhaps when that is said it is because the words being spoken aren't comfortable to hear. The pain can't be waved away like an unwanted fly, even though we would like to bring healing to the wounds. To honor the sanctity of life, let's speak for the unborn, the disabled and the elderly. In addition, let's remember the healed but wounded ones whose words might be like Henry Aaron's, commenting about the racism he experienced:
"The only thing I can say is that I had a rough time with it. I don't talk about it much. It still hurts a little bit inside, because I think it has chipped away at a part of my life that I will never have again. I didn't enjoy myself. It was hard for me to enjoy something that I think I worked very hard for. God had given me the ability to play baseball, and people in this country kind of chipped away at me. So, it was tough. And all of those things happened simply because I was a black person." Mr. Aaron also said, "Most of all, I pray that no one ever again, in any walk of life, has to go through what I did." Yes, and amen.
Lord, Help us to listen and treat people with grace and respect, keeping in mind that each is made in Your image and has the possibility of becoming Your child, Genesis 1:26-27; John 1:11-12.