Designed to Heal | Jennie A. McLaurin & Cymbeline Tancongco Culiat

Designed to Heal

The following is an excerpt from Designed to Heal by Jennie A. McLaurin & Cymbeline Tancongco Culiat. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.

As a physician, I’m an expert on the bodies I encounter in the exam room. But even there, I’m often struck by how ill-​equipped I am to remedy life’s complex wounds, like the distressing emotional ones suffered by (my patient) Elijah. Just like the human body that I know so well from medical training, the corporate bodies I inhabit—​whether my church, my family, or my workplace—​are sometimes healthy and sometimes injured. We all want our collective bodies to stay well, but many times those wounds also appear too complicated to heal.

Family strains, workplace stress, church policy disagreements, and world politics have all taken a toll on my well-​being. And the problem isn’t just “them”—​it is me as well. How do I respond as my authentic self in times of stress, crisis, and deep hurt? When should I let go of a conflict and when should I hang on, pushing for a better resolution? Am I hurting or helping? These problems are harder for me to solve than most of my pediatric cases.

Our physical bodies are designed to heal, even when faced with extraordinary circumstances. Our healing tendencies are integrated into every system of the body, responsive down to the most basic microcellular level. As humans, we will all experience hurt; indeed, woundedness is part of what it means to be alive. But due to the amazing design of our bodies, our injuries don’t have to have the last word. Repair, restoration, and even regeneration are built into our very cells. In fact, the actual healing process is complex, involving distinct stages and many cell types that contribute to the overall work in an orderly, patient progression….

What if our corporate bodies were oriented to healing the
way our physical bodies are?

….For a faith made distinct by the Incarnation and Resurrection, the centrality of the body seems an essential tenet. Yet so often we behave like disconnected beings, thinking and speaking on matters of faith but not grounding our day-​to-​day experiences in the fleshing out of those words we claim to believe. Attending to healing, in every aspect of our gathered lives, is and will always be a Christian vocation. It is not just for those with special gifts, but a call that encompasses us all. Comforting those who hurt, feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, and extending hospitality to those whose views counter our own illustrate our vital connections to the body of Christ.

This book is an attempt to reclaim a unitive understanding of healing as a Christian ideal. Jesus showed first​­century Hebrews that their expectations about the power of God’s love were too narrow, too low. His message is still needed in our fractured and fragmented world. How is it that we so readily give up on a healing that may yet be possible, if only we have faith to see?

Our bodies are made to heal. We have built-in mechanisms that respond to wounds. As humans, we somehow recognize that we will be hurt and that woundedness is part of what it means to be alive. But because of the amazing design of our bodies, our injuries don’t have to have the last word. Repair, restoration, and even regeneration bear witness to the possibility of full healing from our wounds.

Many question the relevance of the church today. Perhaps knowing the power of the body of Christ to stop the bleeding and restore broken relationships, to clear away viral prejudices and misunderstandings, to give new shape to distorted identities, and to collectively participate in the healing of our untouchable places would draw people into the church, much like the ancient ministries of physical healing did for earlier cultures. It is still countercultural to include outcasts and to create spaces where all are not only welcome, but also viewed as vital to the life of the whole community.

Clotting, inflammation, tissue building, and remodeling—​these are our images for wound healing. Urgency and perseverance both have their place, as do personal transformation and visionary hope. Despite our desires for expediency, we aren’t given a set of directions for assembling a conflict—free life. Tension, pain, and death all play roles in the story of healing from our wounds.

Our healing is full of paradox, which is again an image of the Christian life. We follow a Savior who lived a perfect life only to die as a criminal. Our God is one and three, our body is one and many, and it is in dying that we have eternal life. As we face the reality of our deeply wounded places, we have the opportunity to more fully participate in being people of regeneration. As Richard Rohr reflects, “Being wounded and surviving helps us understand the pattern of life-​death-​­resurrection. We are no longer simply victims but empowered and wise healers. No wonder the image of the Risen Christ is still wounded….”

Suffering is something we so want to avoid. But it isn’t the last word. It is just a way through. The body, both physically and mystically, is made for healing. What would our communities and congregations look like if we lived wholeheartedly into this truth? May our wounds become wombs.

Praise for Designed to Heal

“When I began reading Designed to Heal, I felt the same flush of excitement that I had when I first encountered Dr. Paul Brand, my collaborator on three books. These two authors, a researcher and a physician, have woven together a rare combination of vivid science, compassionate storytelling, and lasting spiritual lessons. A delight to read.”
Philip Yancey, bestselling author

“To work in prison ministry is to see, day in and day out, the damage that unhealed wounds can create in a life and a community. This book paints a vivid picture of the hope we share―that God’s love can bring healing to even the most profound of wounds, and the mechanisms through which that healing may come to pass.”
Jed Brewer, director of productions at Mission:USA

“I have tried to come up with just the right word to describe this book, and the best I can do is “marvelous.” Medical doctor Jennie McLaurin, with the help of her friend, molecular geneticist Cymbeline Culiat, has written a marvelous book. They open up for us the wonders of the human body, in particular the marvel of the body’s inherent capacity for healing. I was stunned by what they show us: the ability of the body to repair, restore, and even regenerate. Drs. McLaurin and Culiat take us through the remarkable stages by which such wound healing takes place and apply them to the healing of corporate bodies, especially the church, the body of Christ. Through their stories of healing, clear and easily grasped biological explanations, and solid theological insights, I find myself lifted into hope that all wounds can be healed, and one day will be. Marvelous in every sense of the word!”
Darrell Johnson, retired pastor and professor, teaching fellow at Regent College, and theological mentor

“This is a book of hope―hope in the grace that courses through our healing physical bodies and for the communal bodies that we live among. The wonders of science, illuminated by a physician and a molecular geneticist, shed light on possibilities for families, neighborhoods, churches, and the body politic. Drs. McLaurin and Culiat are close friends who share deep commitments to science, motherhood, and living out their Christian faith in our complicated world. Acknowledging the reality of woundedness, physical and social, they offer ways of seeing and living that will bless the world.”
Susan S. Phillips, PhD, executive director of New College Berkeley, sociologist, and author

“This unique and very interesting book examines the processes by which our bodies heal, and applies that learning to the healing of relationships. The authors share current brain science research relating to the damaging effects of trauma and the protective effects of positive emotions and experiences. Overall a very valuable and useful new perspective.”
Brian Allain, founder of Writing for Your Life and How to Heal Our Divides

About the Author

Jennie A. McLaurin

Jennie A. McLaurin is a pediatrician, writer, and public health expert with particular interests in culture, bioethics, and theology. She graduated from Salem College with a degree in chemistry and then received an MD from Wake Forest University, an MPH from UNC-Chapel Hill and an MA in theology and ethics from Regent College (Vancouver, BC). She has worked with marginalized and underserved communities in the US for over 30 years, caring for migrant, homeless, indigenous, and special needs populations. Jennie is currently the medical director at two sites, one serving at-risk adolescents and one providing multidisciplinary early intervention services to 0- to 3-year-olds with special needs. Writing has always been a part of Jennie’s life, whether academically or creatively. She describes herself as a wonderer and wanderer, always interested in the relationship of the spiritual to the everyday. Jennie lives in Northwest WA state with her incredible husband Andrew.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.