Photo Credit: Fr. Darryl Millette
Healing was not the invitation I was expecting when I showed up at church several weeks ago. I arrived focused on the harsh words and tone I had exacted on my family in the days before. I want so badly to be kind and patient, loving and gentle. Going to church felt like walking into the brick wall of my own failure. I’ve been walking with God in silence for the better part of two years, so I was surprised by the flood welling high enough in my chest to cut through my guilt: it is time for healing.
I walked out into the sunshine terrified. Pursuing healing feels altogether too out there for me. A quick scan of my journals and archive revealed that I’ve written about stitches and broken toes, but I’m being asked to dig under the metaphors. The present healing is only just beginning so it is nowhere near ready for writing, but the how of healing has been pressing on my ribs, aching for some measure of articulation.
I have been tracing God’s healing in my experience to try to understand healing better and participate in it more fully. And the words have emerged from my fear as both title and guide: allowing God to heal us.
Allowing healing felt like a strange starting place. Sometimes, however, my kids scream out in pain for me to come but then beg me not to touch what hurts. Maybe this healing thing is like that? Resistance is almost always my first defense. What if the healing hurts as much or more than the wound? Denial allows me to pretend there is no wound. Staying busy gives me the illusion that (any possible) wounds aren’t affecting me. Identifying with the wound makes it comfortable and familiar.
Resistance buries wounds and pulls their roots through me. Then on a Saturday afternoon before Sunday church, tired and unsuspecting, I snap over something totally ridiculous and the wound is making itself known in spite of me. At some point, the pain of resisting healing becomes great enough that I become willing to allow healing to happen in me.
God was the next revelation. The One who does this work is not me. No amount of guilt, lecturing, or effort has ever brought about the change I long to see in myself. Sure, I can stop yelling for a couple weeks, but given the right circumstances, my old habits resurface. When I trace real change in my life, I am overwhelmed to see how God has done what I cannot.
To heal us, God is constantly weaving together broken fragments and all things new, across time and space. Every significant healing I have experienced has been wrought together with a beauty and perfection I could not have imagined or anticipated.
Shame can motivate me to set down my resistance, to allow God in, but shame is not the stuff of healing – it is the stuff of hell. God has given me work to do in the history of His healing work in my life, but the work pulls me out of guilt and shame. I have been asked to practice connection in the place of criticism, hope instead of fear, waiting where I would have jumped into action. Over time, sometimes months, and sometimes decades, God has been working healing in me and with me. I know more about this than my fear let me believe.
The guilt and shame I carried into the church did not leave with me. The absence was a reminder for me that I desperately needed. I worship a God who not only knows my pain but shares it, and I believe in a God whose response to human suffering is to suffer with us, alongside us, in order work healing from within. It is a miracle to imagine that my healing, then, might also be God’s. The healing that is coming is not a burden for me to carry, but a path I will walk with Him.
This is how the Creator of all that is draws into the moments that makes up our lives and builds a kingdom that will have no end. Will we allow God to heal us?
Wow! Thank you.
Your article about God’s presence stirs me to write below!
One Morning a few years back a splash of grace awakened in me the fact that God Was actually with me. In my very soul. I suddenly realized it was the presence of our Lord guiding me along the way to all things good for me! Because I believe and acknowledge He is with me, I am always called to live with hope in all aspects of my life. Truly the essence of peace.
Leah, your post reminds me of a time when I was hurting and I stood in a chapel service and sang the lyric, “I’ll open up my heart and let the Healer set me free.” At that moment, I realized how tightly my heart was shut and how unwilling I was to let people help me walk out of the pain. In that moment, I had the revelation that you write about. I became willing to trust God to deal with the condition of my heart.