Out of our pain, while we are still being healed ourselves, we become a conduit of healing for others. We love even in our since of being unlovely. We offer grace, when we are still trying to know grace ourselves. We pray even when we have questions about the effectiveness of our prayers. We sit with others in their darkness when we feel that we have more darkness. We lead others when we are unsure of where we are leading.
This flies in the face of so many unrealistic expectation of what great spiritual leaders must be.
The mystery is found in the fact that God works through our weakness, not only in spite of weakness. The ministry of God is God's ministry not ours. Hence, we minister our of brokenness, not out of self-sufficiency.
Here is a reflection by Henri Nouwen from his great book The Wounded Healer:
"In the middle of our convulsive world men and women raise their voices time and again to announce with incredible boldness that we are waiting for a Liberator. We are waiting, they announce, for a Messiah who will free us from hatred and oppression, from racism and war—a Messiah who will let peace and justice take their rightful place.
"If the ministry is meant to hold the promise of this Messiah, then whatever we can learn of His coming will give us a deeper understanding of what is called for in ministry today.
"How does our Liberator come? I found an old legend in teh Talmud which may suggest to use the beginning of an answer:
"Rabbi Yoshua ben Levi came upon Elijah the prophet while he was standing at the entrace of Rabbit Simeron ben Yohai's cave ... He asked Elijah, 'When will the Messiah come?'
Elijah replied, 'Go and ask him yourself.'
'Where is he?'
'Sitting at the gates of the city.'
'How shall I know him?'
'He is sitting among the poor covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and then bind them up again. but he unbinds one at a time and binds it up again, saying to himself, "Perhaps I shall be needed: if so I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment."
"The Messiah, the story tells us, is sitting among the poor, binding his wounds one at a time, waiting for the moment when he will be needed. So it is too with the minister. Since it is his task to make visible the first vestiges of liberation for others, he must bind his own wounds carefully in anticipation of the moment when he will be needed. He is called to be the wounded healer, the one who must look after his own wounds but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others." (The Wounded Healer, 81-82).