Every Saturday night I go through the same routine. I review the activity of the day, I anticipate the strength I will need for the next day. Chronic illness and its plethora of supplements, food restrictions, and medications consumes the great majority of my strength every week. After taking an honest evaluation of what energy I have in my possession, I then discern whether or not I’ll be attending our church’s worship service the following morning. Every week, it’s a struggle to decide. Choosing to go, choosing to stay–each has its gains and losses.
I was in the middle of this process this past Saturday night, leaning towards deciding that my ration of energy did not include enough to make it through a church service. It had been a busy Saturday, our family was scheduled to be in the nursery on Sunday, I was pretty sure I didn’t have stamina in the quantities that would be needed.
Just as I was settling this decision in my mind and in my heart, I discovered a message from our priest. He would be offering healing prayer tomorrow morning. He thought I might be interested. He hoped I would come.
This new information caused me to go through the entire process again. This time, I decided I would go.
Sunday mornings are full of demands on my energy–getting all the kiddos fed, dressed, combed, and buckled is a big one. Getting myself fed, dressed, combed, and buckled is another. By the time we’re all in the car, I’m ready for a nap.
And it’s not just the preparation that exhausts me. I’m learning that I’m more of an introvert than I ever suspected. For me to engage in the social interaction once we are at church requires a great deal of strength and preparation. Often I simply don’t have the energy to engage. And then there are the eucharistic aerobics of standing and sitting and kneeling that accompany our Anglican tradition. Altogether, it often feels like more than this weary, broken body can handle.
This week though, I choose to go. And I stay seated through the standing and sitting and kneeling. And there is only one well-behaved pre-schooler in the nursery, so I slip back into the service leaving him under the watchful eye of the Sweetie Pie husband and our four children.
We break bread together, and pour wine. We go forward, this family of mine, and again this week, I don’t take any of it. This body and blood has become just another loss. Wafers and wine are not allowed on my current diet, not even the ones that transcend their ingredients. In walking forward, I am reminded of my brokenness, and this inability to ingest the remedy leaves me feeling all the more broken. And very lonely.
Afterwards, the invitation is extended. Anyone in need of healing, in any way, is welcome to come forward. I sit shyly in my chair. My heart is running to the front and lying prostrate, begging for that healing. But my shy, broken body won’t move.
The musicians begin a familiar song, one that I have sung through the dark places of the past few years. So for a while I sing.
Let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor way, “I am rich”
Let the blind say, “I can see”
It’s what the Lord has done in me
I watch as others begin walking forward, a line streams out in front of the priest. I think of the walking wounded who came clamoring to Jesus. Enraptured in the beauty of the moment I stay seated, I keep singing.
to the Lamb that was slain
Jesus died and rose again.
I look up and see dear ones being prayed over, friends with whom I walk and for whom I pray. I pray now for them, joining my prayers with those anointing prayers being sung over them by the priest.
I will rise from waters deep
Into the saving arms of God
I will sing salvation songs
Jesus Christ has set me free
By the time I am finished singing and observing and praying, there are a dozen people waiting in a line that trails all the way down the aisle. I know I don’t have the strength to stand in that line to wait my turn. I decide to stay seated, to wait until the line shortens.
But it seems that each time someone leaves the line, someone else rises to take their place. I begin to feel like one of those Biblical cripples, despairing of ever being healed–like the man who sat beside the Bethesda well, but could never be quick enough to get into the waters. There was always someone else quicker and stronger who received the healing.
Still, I wait. Slowly, the line starts to dwindle and eventually I stand and move into it. I begin to wonder, will there even be anything left for me? Like Esau? Will all of the good blessings be handed out before I get there? I get exhausted praying for just one person. This man before me has prayed for dozens. Surely he will absentmindedly be reciting rote prayers by the time I get to him.
“The hem of His robe,” I tell myself. “All I need is the hem of His robe.” Here I was, like the bleeding woman who pushed through the crowd to simply touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, knowing that it was all she needed to make her well. Surely Jesus was tired and spent. And yet, what was it he said to that woman?
“Your faith has made you well.”
It was the faith that the woman brought to Jesus, not words that he gave to her, that healed her. She brought faith, and it was honored even without her asking, even without him really consenting. She brought faith and he could not help but heal her.
The couple in front of me step aside and I move forward.
“I need to be able to eat food,” is all I can say, to explain my presence in this line. It is enough. I am washed in a rushing flow of prayer, and not just from this clergyman whose hand is on my head. I feel it on all sides–above me, behind me, on my left and on my right. I am surrounded by ever-loving arms. I lean into them hard, and find rest.
I do not preach the gospel of health and wealth. I do not believe that good health is a sign of God’s favor, any more than I believe my poor health is a sign that God is displeased with me. Nor do I believe that if I only have a little more faith or am a little bit more righteous, then I will be healed. This is not what I’m saying at all.
What I’m saying, what I’m trying to understand, is the very clear fact that this woman brought faith to Jesus, and she was healed. This past Sunday, I brought my faith forward with me, I reached out to touch the hem of His robe, and I felt His healing power flow into me. But unlike this blessed woman in the scriptures, my body is still broken. I did not go out and celebrate my restored digestion with a lunch of alfredo pasta and focaccia bread.
I do not attempt to understand the who and why and how and when of God’s choice to heal. Nor do I attempt to understand why some receive restored bodies, and others do not. I do know that it is up to His good pleasure how and when (yes, even if) to work in me. And I wait upon that timing.
While I desire that physical healing very much, and continue to ask for it and hope for it, I am not disappointed in what He gave me that Sunday morning. What I received was a healing of my downcast and lonely spirit. I received peace. I received hope. Yes, there was something left for me after all. It is enough.