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Featured Book for June 2024

Hurting Yet Whole: Reconciling Body and Spirit in Chronic Pain and Illness

by Liuan Huska

What if the things we most fear about our bodies–our vulnerability to illness and pain–are exactly the places where God meets us most fully?

As Liuan Huska went through years of chronic pain, she wondered why God seemed absent and questioned some of the common assumptions about healing. What do we do when our bodies don’t work the way they should? What is healing, when one has a chronic illness? Can we still be whole when our bodies suffer?

The Christian story speaks to our experiences of pain and illness. In the embodiment of Jesus’ life, we see an embrace of the body and all of the discomfort and sufferings of being human. Countering a Gnosticism that pits body against spirit, Huska takes us on a journey of exploring how healing is not an escape from the limits of the body, but becoming whole as souls in bodies and bodies with souls. As chronic pain forces us to pay attention to our bodies’ vulnerability, we come to embrace the fullness of our broken yet beautiful bodies. She helps us redefine what it means to find healing and wholeness even in the midst of ongoing pain.

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Community Questions

Community Questions from Claudia Love Mair

Week 1

  1. In what ways do you spiritualize your suffering and how does it remove you from the compassion needed to be present to others in pain? p. 9
  2. Liuan often asked herself, “What is healing, when one has a chronic illness? Can a person still be whole (not just spiritually whole, but wholly whole) when her body is not functioning properly and she is suffering?” How would you answer this question?
  3. Liuan writes, “We must learn to be fully human, not superhuman, by living within our embodied limits, not transcending them. We must make peace with our tenuous existence, susceptible at any moment to devastating illnesses and even death. We must realize that our vulnerability is what opens us to rely on others, and, through these relationships becoming whole.” p.13 How can the gift and grace of vulnerability and our pain open us up to this more deeply?

Week 2

  1. On page 29 Liuan states, “Being fully human is to inhabit the wild mysteries of our bodies and trust that, because Christ was a body, and still is a body, we don’t need to fear this place. We can say, it is good, because Christ meets us here.” We know that Christ’s resurrected body still has its wounds, pointing the way toward something wondrous about them in the resurrected life. Are there ways that support you in feeling the reality of the divine meeting you in your own body?
  2. The chapter "Split at the Core" shares how Liuan reread the creation and fall narratives with new eyes. Try the same, and share what reimagining these stories shift in you?
  3. Midway on page 33 Liuan writes about what one believes about their body. Are we are bodies? Or do we have bodies? What do you think the difference is between these two perceptions?

Week 3

  1. On page 46 Liuan writes, “Just as Jesus took up the cross and turned it from a symbol of shame and punishment to a monument to God’s nearness, his oneness with us, so we are called to partner with God and make something new out of our pain.” This transformation seems key and can be a challenge if or when pain exhausts and devastates. How do you summon the courage to make something new out of pain?
  2. Liuan writes, "My own healing, as I understand it, has involved accepting my body's imperfections and not expecting God to save me from the unpleasant aspects I can't control. Yet it has not meant giving up and feeling defeated, projecting my current physical state into the foreseeable future, or assuming it will only go downhill from here." How do you accept the vulnerabiles and imperfections of your body?
  3. There are questions on page 73 in which Liuane asks about how to navigate healthcare decisions. How do you think questions like these could help you?

Week 4

  1. Liuan writes about the false dichotomies that exist between male and female binaries and other dualities: soul and body, mind and body, etc., and how they affect the way we feel about ourselves and others. What is your thoughts about these false dichotomies?
  2. On page 115 Liuan writes, “Theologian Ann Mercer has also reflected on vulnerability and interdependence in helpful ways. With two older adults have to offer, she asks, when they can’t work and can’t take care of themselves? Do they have a calling? She believes they do, and points us toward an understanding of calling that goes beyond what we normally imagine it to be-what we do and how we are useful-to a “relational ecology.”  What would it mean if you considered the care of your body as your primary vocation before you even begin to consider the many ways you might do things?
  3. In chapter 9 Liuan writes about how we have lost the ability to suffer well. What would suffering well look like to you?