The great scholar Joseph Campbell said, “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought.”
According to its definition, a metaphor is a figure of speech where we use a word or phrase to suggest a likeness between two objects or ideas.
Because our minds can’t fully grasp who God is, through metaphors we can use our imaginations to point to a familiar object or idea to better undertand the Creator.
My teacher, Sister Nancy, affirmed what Campbell said. But she went one step further.
According to Nancy, the Creator often uses the language of metaphor to communicate with us.
“Wouldn’t it be like God to bypass our over-thinking minds and speak to us directly through our imaginations?” Nancy chuckled. “Pay attention when a simple word, phrase, or image keeps popping up in your heart or mind,” she said.
Nancy often took a long pause to make sure we were listening. Then she’d place her finger on her lips and whisper, “When something strikes your imagination, it may be a ‘God-nudge.’ It could be a word you read or hear several times that grabs your attention like a gentle poke. It could be an image from daily life or something in nature that speaks to you beyond words, beyond your intellect. When those nudges appear, open your heart, receive them as gift, savor them like a cup of delicious tea, and let God speak to you through them.”
This month, I experienced a metaphor as a God-nudge. It was the image of a wart. Here’s what happened.
For dozens of years, I’ve had a small wart on the tip of my right index finger. It’s about the size of a nickel and not too noticeable. I’ve tried to ignore it and live with its imperfection.
But, when I type on my computer the wart ouches at me. When I try to twist open a jar lid, the wart stares back at me. It’s like he grimaces and says, “Seriously? Do you enjoy the throbbing pain when you scrape me across hard surfaces? When are you going to pay attention and do something about me?”
I finally surrendered to my wart, listened to its wise counsel, and went to a dermatologist.
The doctor explained that warts are a type of viral infection. They’re usually not cancerous, but left untreated, they can spread and develop into a more serious medical condition.
The first two treatments with liquid ice didn’t work. Those nasty black spots in my wart sneered back at me, “Nanna nanna boohoo, you can’t get me.”
The doctor then prescribed a salve to put on my finger each night. The ointment contained the chemicals used to treat dangerous cancer cells. It burned and ripped open my skin, but I remained relentless and applied the salve each night as directed.
As I worked through the wart-removal process, it became a God-nudge, a metaphor through which God spoke.
For years, my insides—my heart—has carried a deep wound of self-doubt. Blaring voices from my past scream at my psyche, “You’re a bad person!” Shame has haunted me.
I’ve tried to ignore those dark voices. I’ve taken them to God in prayer asking him to unveil the truth about who I am. I’ve reached out to placebos to distract the voices. But, social media, alcohol, and people-pleasing didn’t take away my inner wart.
Like the ointment prescribed to remove my outer wart, I knew it was time to seek a new path to open my heart and let the Creator remove my inner wart—the one that kept telling me I’m no good.
As I sat in meditation one morning, I recalled the words from Scripture, “By his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5-6). But this time, the Creator changed up the words. I heard the God of love whisper, “By your warts you are healed.”
When I heard the whisper, I knew it came from the Creator. I didn’t resist. It was time to seek Divine Healing.
The Great Physician then nudged me to join a spiritual group for people who suffer from chronic self-doubt. And I did. I joined the group, seeking its shared wisdom.
Ten days later, the skin on my finger peeled off as the wart and its black dots fell away. The ointment worked. My index finger now glistens with skin as pink and fresh as a baby’s behind.
At the same time, I continue to apply the daily salve of morning meditation, reading, talking with my spiritual director, and learning how to love myself more fully.
But this time around, instead of ignoring my inner wart, I am also surrounding myself with a spiritual community of people who share the human condition of self-doubt and are willing to face it head-on, willing to let God’s wisdom guide their lives, willing to share their experience, strength, and hope to live more fully alive.
My outer wart became the metaphor for the inner healing God wants for me. As a wise family member said, “Now your inside will match your outside.”
As we draw close to saying goodbye to an old year and welcome a new year, consider naming the warts—big or small—you need the Creator to heal. Then listen for the metaphors, words, or images through which God communicates with you as the Divine leads you into deeper Wholeness and Love.
Pay attention. Open your heart. Receive them as gift. Savor them like a good cup of tea.
Let the metaphor transcend you beyond intellectual thought.
Then lift them up with gratitude as you let the Creator fill you with healing grace.
It’s true: through our warts we are healed.
—brian j plachta
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