Bleeding Joyfully | Sojourners

Bleeding Joyfully

Pricked finger, Chris G. Walker /
Pricked finger, Chris G. Walker /

Don’t you hate it when you accidentally slice the tip of your finger on one of your knives and the cut is deep enough to draw blood? Or when one of the cats gets a little too playful with the claws and you’re soon looking for a bandage?

Nobody likes to bleed, even though bleeding is part of life. To live is to bleed. If we’re not bleeding, we’re not living.

We all bleed lots of times, in lots of ways. We skin our knees and scrape our emotions. We often have to head for the medicine cabinet for a bandage. Sometimes, we feel like we need a tourniquet.

There are the little, daily cuts that we all get. Someone says something that hurts our feelings. Something doesn’t turn out the way that we’d hoped, and we get discouraged. A project that we’ve invested so much of ourselves into gets rejected, and we feel rejected, too.

It happens all the time.

Sometimes, we wind up with a deep spiritual cut that needs to be stitched closed with the help of others. A relationship ends. A job disappears. A tumor appears. A storm blows through our neighborhood and destroys what we’ve built over the years.

I admire those who learn not only to accept the blood-stained moments, but to embrace them. They develop a capacity to see beyond the momentary hurt. They recognize that bleeding is part of the grand process of life.

And they bleed joyfully.

They’re willing to risk pain in order to give and receive love. Their compassion allows them to bleed along with others. They become well-practiced at bandaging their own cuts and become expert at helping others treat their own wounds.

They not only bleed the most; they also heal the most.

And they recognize something else as well: In order to change anything, we have to be willing to bleed. That’s simply how it works.

Any attempt to right a wrong or fix an injustice is going to involve some blood being lost. Those who work for change bleed a lot and do it joyfully, recognizing there’s a purpose behind the pain. They understand that bleeding is divine.

This week, Christians remember someone who challenged the world to change and to become more as God would have it. Jesus was clear about what the kingdom of God would look like. He described the kingdom, and wound up bleeding as a result. He was killed by those who didn’t share his vision of a world in which the last are first, everyone is beloved and the needy are embraced. He told his followers they needed to be ready to bleed, too, when they tried to live his vision.

Everyone who advocates change gets a strong pushback from those defending the status quo. Struggle and pain are the lifeblood of change. Those who are favored under the current system aren’t about to let any of it slip away, and they’ll hurt whoever gets in their way.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. knew what it meant to bleed this way. They saw bleeding as redemptive. They recognized that individuals have to be willing to bleed in order for their societies to be healed.

The challenge is to embrace the need to bleed.

And, then, to bleed joyfully.

Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest.

Image: Pricked finger, Chris G. Walker /

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