“It’s disgusting how many people Jesus healed,” I told my friend Joel over pizza one night. “I’ve been reading Mark – he healed everyone!”
I was good and bitter, thinking of my loved ones who struggle with chronic depression and autoimmune diseases and high blood pressure. And while I was at it, what about the division and lack of love and corruption infecting my beloved Church? And what about my own pride and anger and insensitivity and all the stupid sins I faced down day after day? I was tired of the seeming relentlessness of it all, of watching nothing change within or without, then reading how Jesus sent lifelong afflictions away with a single touch and a blessing.
“Not everyone,” corrected Joel firmly, taking another bite of pizza.
I kept reading the Gospels and I saw he was right. They are thick with lepers and fever sufferers and the demon-possessed. You get the idea there are many more where they came from, and Jesus spends significant time running away from them. After most of his miracles in Mark, Jesus instructs the newly healed not to tell anyone (instructions they usually blatantly disregard, and who can blame them).
Why would Jesus tell them not to tell anyone? Not because he doesn’t want to heal people or because he doesn’t love them. Jesus is often described as looking at someone and having compassion on them – and the Greek verb in that sentence literally means he experienced gut-wrenching pain on their behalf. He loves these people so much it hurts – viscerally.
But even he cannot do it all. Jesus is not “only human,” as the saying goes, but he is fully human. He gets hungry, dirty, exhausted – in that famous part when he calms the storm, he had to be awoken from sleeping through its fury, conked out on a rough mat on the floor of the boat. He is constantly being chased by crowds of people, and once someone lets his secret out in an area, he can’t even appear in public anymore. He often withdraws to a quiet place to pray, apparently needing to be restored.
So who gets healed in the Bible? The ones who push their way to the front of that crowd to touch Jesus, scream his name until he stops his journey, endure jeers and mocking and discouragement from bystanders, sneak up behind him to brush their fingers upon the hem of his garment, get their friends to lower them down from a hole in the thatched roof. Subtle, they are generally not. Orthodox, even less so. They are desperate and unafraid to admit it. You ask them what they want and they’ll tell you right away: they want to be healed.
When I say realizing this taught me something about healing, what I don’t mean at all is that my friends with depression or high blood pressure or lupus are sick because they don’t want to be well badly enough. Neither do I want to say that God is harried and overworked, that you have to take a number and wait for him to get to you. I don’t understand why sickness happens, why healing happens or doesn’t happen. God knows why every sparrow falls to the ground, but I will never pretend to be in the know on that level.
But I do know this: if I want to get healed from my own stuff, and I’m talking soul rot, spiritual leprosy, bits of my heart falling off from under-use, I need to get serious about it. My pride needs to be the first thing to go. I need to shout with all my heart, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” I need to be ready to crawl on my belly in the dust to touch the hem of his robe. I need to let friends carry me and devise crazy schemes on my behalf. I need to become deaf to those who would mock me or scorn me for admitting my weakness. I need to focus on just one thing: following that crowd of crazy people and hunting Jesus down.
I also need to smash forever the other big lie I tell myself: that working on my own spiritual healing equals being selfish. Often I feel squishily concerned about other people’s suffering, but I’m too buried in my own garbage to truly help them. As a wise man once said, “Why don’t you take the stick out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to help that other person who’s got something in their eye.” Like, “I can’t believe I have to tell you this, but you can’t see with a giant stick in your eye. Common sense, people, sheesh.”
What this means for me right now: I’m starting to actively look for a therapist and/or spiritual director to help me with some deep-rooted, unhealthy ways of dealing with physical and emotional pain (or not dealing with it, as the case may be). I’ve been very resistant to this in the past for various reasons, but what I lose in pride I’ll hopefully more than make up in authenticity. I’m also committing to confiding in my friends more when I need it and praying aggressively for growth and healing. I’d appreciate your prayers and/or good wishes on this journey.
I raise a big cosmic toast to humbling ourselves in the pursuit of healing. May we all, one day, be whole.
What are your thoughts on healing? Any requests for prayer and/or practical help?