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(GH) An Unsafe Love – 7: An Answer

(Originally posted on April 05, 2012)

A few weeks ago, I was attending Reading Family Church, which is my church-away-from-home. This particular service was unusual because the pastor had decided to split time between normal worship/sermon and a time for people to go up and be prayed over by various church leaders.

Like I mentioned in earlier posts, emotionally engaged has been incredibly exhausting for me for the past while. To cope with this (especially in an wonderfully engaging congregation like Reading Family), normally while I’m at church I have the Me and then I have the Me With Garbage At A Deeper Level We’ll Just Keep This Bit Locked Up. Not like pretending to worship, because I really do. It’s just that there’s another part of me I’m talking down, like, “That’s too heavy to deal with right now, so I’m just going to worry about that later.”

So the second half of the service comes around, and I wasn’t planning to go up. Then the pastor talked about the crippled man who Jesus commanded to stretch out his hand and be healed, and I was like, “Well, I think that might be my cue.” But I was still hesitating because I just didn’t want to risk opening that door. I watched most of the church go up, and was wishing I could go pray for all those people with their problems, but I found myself really averse to being prayed over. And in my heart over and over I felt like God was saying, “Why? Why won’t you let me bless you?”

The service ended, but before it did some people shared visions/messages they thought God was telling them. One guy was like, “There’s someone whose hands are hurting and hurting.” I was like, “Oh.” The rest of his message didn’t really apply, but I was still a little… more alert, shall we say. The pastor kept the floor open and encouraged people to go open, to stretch out their hands.

I took a deep breath, went up and stood awkwardly off to one side. One of the pastors took me and paired me with a woman and man deacon. All the strength went out of me when they put their hands on my shoulders, and the woman asked what my name was, and I just stared sobbing. (Which is pretty pathetic, even for me. When that door opens, it opens.)

They prayed over me until I could talk again. I told them my name and said that I had arthritis and it was destroying my hands, and I was hurt and confused. The man had knelt down and they both covered my hands and he looked up at me. I wish I could put into words what I saw in his eyes. This is so cliché, but it was like seeing the Spirit in him—all love and concern and wisdom and comfort. Like a cup of hot tea and a clear blue day and spring all at once.

He asked me, “Do you want us to pray that they would heal?”

Here’s a thing that I haven’t really talked about before. But I don’t really pray for physical healing. It’s not that I didn’t believe I could be healed or there could be a miracle. It was just that I felt like that was a thing for other people. And I was scared that if I really, truly, full-heartedly asked for a physical healing, I’d get no answer and it would kill me.

He asked me, “Do you want us to pray that they would heal?”

I nodded. I wasn’t sure why I was nodding. I didn’t plan on asking for a physical healing.

He said, “We can ask God. But sometimes he doesn’t heal the way we think he should. I feel like God wants to heal you in other ways. He wants to heal your heart.”

Which is when I knew. I knew that that was what I wanted—to be healed inside. But I also knew I had to ask for a physical healing. I had to ask and see what happened, but I needed to do it in a safe place. I needed someone else to do it with me. And with the sweet woman and man, their hands cupped around my shaking ones, I couldn’t imagine a safer place. I asked that they’d pray for healing but especially for my heart. So they did.

Nothing miraculous physically happened. But that was okay with me. I think in some ways, that was an answer.

After they prayed for healing, the man was still kneeling in front of me, and he was crying a little, but he looked right up at me in the eyes and told me God loves me. And the woman, who had her arms around me, said, “God loves you, and he weeps with you.” And the man said, “I think you are hiding. God wants you to glow, to be radiant. You are the daughter of the king. I see you just overflowing with the joy of that, bouncing down the streets. He wants you to be new again, to be renewed and not weary or tired. You are the daughter of the king and He loves you.”

Here’s the thing. Life is going to suck until the day I leave it. There will be blessings and ups and sometimes it’s going to be fantastic and sometimes it’s going to suck fantastically.

But on that Sunday, God stopped letting me try to justify Him or justify myself. God gave me a glimpse of who He is in the arms of that sweet woman and the eyes of that man and the way they held my hands, like my hands were fragile and broken and precious.

And for a moment, I saw. And I understood.

Roll Credits:
Special thanks to my mentor and friend, Nicole, who has been walking me through this for months. Also to my parents. To all the weird blog entries that happened to pop up while I was debating whether or not I should post all this, including but not limited to The Contemporary Church is a Crack House by a blogger I never read whose theology looks a little shaky but whose post brings up some good questions about how the church handles suffering (and the song in the video, though explicit (but he’s Irish so it doesn’t count, right?), is absolutely beautiful) and God and Suffering by Brad at Three Rivers Community Church (my home church), a much more theologically sound discussion of suffering that makes my notes on Job look like the ramblings of a two year old. Brad’s two minute communion sermons are one of the things I miss the most in the U.S., true story.

(The Discussion: (1) The Personal Crisis, (2) Great and Terrible, (3) The Friends’ Response, (4) The Conflict, (5) The Conversation, (6) Choosing to Believe, (7) An Answer)

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