Publication Information: Putnam, C. L. (2007, July / Aug). Wounded. Christian Woman Magazine, 23(4), 40.
The battle was fought in the hills and meadows, caves and valleys. Every soldier had his post, and all fought until the captain’s bugle called them at sundown. They gathered in a cave at the base of a nearby mountain, huddled side by side and yet not touching.
Everywhere there were wounds. Some from the enemy, some at the hands of uncaring or unknowing others, and some even self-inflicted. But they were wounds all the same. It was suggested that each person share his injuries, that the whole lot of them would learn from each other’s anguish, and that they would heal together. “Don’t hide the pain away,” it was cautioned. “Don’t pretend. If we cannot bear one another’s hurts, how can we hold out a hand to those still in the battle, those who are also wounded, those who would join us here and be healed?”
One young soldier, popular with the others because of his quick and hearty laugh, unwrapped a sweat-soaked arm. The others breathed a sigh of relief. It was only a surface injury. A comrade nearby dabbed away the blood and all agreed that it would heal without a scar.
Another soldier, who had joined the company with his uncle and four brothers, revealed a deep cut across his cheek. It was tenderly cleaned and bandaged, and he received much helpful advice about changing the dressing and being sure to see a medic after the battle.
Another, surrounded by long-time friends (for he was a veteran of many skirmishes) put forth a bloody stump of a leg. Cries of sympathy and sorrow went up all around. Gentle hands ministered to him in his agony, and he was soon set right again, as right as he could be under the circumstances. And so all were encouraged.
“Yes,” they agreed, “it is good that we are open with our wounds.” And they urged the others on.
A soldier who had not said anything up to now spoke. “I am so weary,” he said quietly. “My pack is so heavy and my canteen is empty.” He was not well known, but the others tried to be helpful. There was much advice on carrying one’s pack properly and being sure to stock up on provisions at every opportunity. The man listened with tired and bleary eyes.
“Rest,” they advised him, “you need rest.” Satisfied, the group moved on, surveying bruises and assessing the damage.
One soldier who had not been there from the beginning watched silently from the shadows. His wound was hidden, yet he ached from it. And he watched. As each new injury was revealed, he waited and wondered, gazing intently at the faces around him.
Some served with tender hands. Others seemed to have no scars. Perhaps they were better soldiers, more sure-footed, better equipped. They joked and laughed among themselves and hardly seemed aware they were in the presence of pain.
He waited. What would they say if they knew he harbored a bullet in the very center of his heart? That he himself had put it there, but that now he was dying? That he was exploding inside from the pain? Would they receive him then?
A leader spoke. Was there anyone else who needed a hand?
The bullet-pierced soldier’s pain was so great that he cried out once or twice. Those who were nearest patted him on the shoulder and whispered to him that the battle was hard at times for everyone and that he would be all right. Distracted by the familiar comradeship of those they had known long and well, they were soon busy with other tasks. One chatted with the captain into the early hours of the morning, a few absorbed themselves in strategic planning for the next day’s fight. To a man they were good soldiers. They dressed ragged wounds and fitted one another out with the sturdiest gear. And others joined them from time to time, to seek healing and help. The war was won in the end.
Meanwhile, the soldier with the heavy pack was found dead at the foot of the next mountain. And the comrade with the bullet in his heart died in the cave one night, surrounded by healers who had not heard his cries.
God, oh dear God. Teach us to listen.