Have you ever pondered how our human bodies and the body of Christ—the church—have so many parallels? Both have many parts and perform essential functions: Our corporeal selves and our faith communities grow, age, mature, and produce young. And both kinds of bodies can sustain wounds, be sick, and require healing.
In a fascinating and affirming book, Designed to Heal: What the Body Shows Us About Healing Wounds, Repairing Relationships, and Restoring Community, physician Jennie McLaurin and molecular genetics researcher Cymbaline Culiat compare these two kinds of bodies and how healing of our emotional and spiritual wounds is analogous to how our physical bodies repair and restore themselves.
True narratives from McLaurin’s medical practice introduce each chapter. These mini-stories—a dart puncture into a teen's skull, a venomous snake bite, adolescent self-injury, keloid scarring post-C-section—segue into the captivating description of what happens at the microcellular level.
Most interestingly, these stories illustrate how wounds between people injure, inflame, and sometimes excoriate us within the corporate body of Christ. The wounds we inflict on those around us and sometimes on ourselves can be treated and often healed. When not recognized or tended to, these become injuries that separate us from one another, produce conflict in the church community, and impede our connection with God. These wounds can become abscesses, lead to sepsis, or simmer under the surface to erupt unexpectedly in disunity and more wounding.
Identifying and treating the wounds we experienced in the body of Christ can produce “beautiful and choreographed healing,” the authors assert. Each chapter details a scenario that we who worship or live with other Christians can identify with. The fallout from pain that is ignored, denied, or mismanaged can be as deadly to our spirits and our corporate worship communities as rampant necrotizing fasciitis.
Most helpful are McLaurin's descriptions that enable diagnosis of unhealthy corporate relationships and offer practical insights: practice mediation, invite others in, reflect gratitude, counter stigma, listen well, draw on the community.
The book concludes with a valuable reflection and discussion guide, using a case study approach to invite individuals or small groups to ingest and articulate how to diagnose and treat wounded individuals and the corporate body.
A lack of Scripture in the text and the reflection section is surprising; fixing a biblical foundation for spiritual healing and regrowth seems warranted. Otherwise, this a worthwhile read for personal and church family health.
Designed to Heal: What the Body Shows Us About Healing Wounds, Repairing Relationships, and Restoring Community (2021). Tyndale.
This book review is excerpted from Reading & Resources in the Journal of Christian Nursing (July/Sept 2022). Each issue of JCN offers resources, research, and faith-sharpening articles, Bible studies and discussion questions. Join NCF and get all of JCN--print and online.