OWL Scripture Reflection – Fall 2021

Balm in Gilead

By Amy Johnson

UCC Minister for Sexuality Education and Justice

“Is there no balm in Gilead?

Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of my people

not been attended to?” Jeremiah 8:22, The Inclusive Bible

When I was a social worker in public and tribal schools, working with young children who couldn’t help but carry their woundedness into school each day, I learned to ask them when they were upset, “If we had a band aid, where would we put it?” It might be their heart, because they were sad, their stomach if they were anxious, their head or hands if they were angry. It was a gentle tool to remind both of us that some wounds aren’t visible, but they are still very real.

Many of us carry around wounds that have to do with our sexuality. Perhaps our bodies have been harmed, our souls crushed, or our thoughts taken over with shame. Where would you put the band aid?

Naming our wounds can set us on a path of healing. Yet, healing can be a long and winding path, full of traffic jams and potholes, detours and temporarily closed roads that cause re-routing. There is a place on a healing journey where our wounds may heal enough to form a scar. And from that place, we may have enough energy to shift our focus from our own wound to that of our family, or community, or world. What wound is being carried that has not yet been healed that led to the damage we suffered? That is when we hear and resonate with the cry from Jeremiah: Is there no balm in Gilead? Where are you? Why have you not attended to the family/community/nation/world?

Our Whole Lives and Sexuality and Our Faith are tools that encourage healing. The trainings can help us reflect and learn where we have more to heal and if we are ready to help young people or our peers learn about sexuality. The materials guide us to have conversations so that our families and communities will be healthier—even places that provide balm instead of needing caravans of it to heal wounds.  None of it is perfect. Because we are all human and have our individual and communal ways of being broken, we will encounter traffic jams and potholes, detours and re-routing. That’s why it’s good to gather our community, learn some basics about how to navigate the road, wear our seatbelts, and put our phones down so we can attend to the task at hand. I invite you, as you close out this year and look ahead, to join us in finding ways to offer OWL in your faith community. It’s worth the time and effort. It’s a heckuva spiritual journey. And I am convinced it’s a key ingredient in the balm of Gilead, to heal our wounded souls.