Winter 2011 #3
The invitation was like a spark to a tinder box. For me it was confronting. For those of my family who happened to be at home when the invitation arrived it was the perfect opportunity to tackle me, once again, on a favourite topic. The invitation was from our good friends, to go with them to a Healing Crusade at their church. The speaker would be a noted ‘healing evangelist’ with successes that even the secular media have acknowledged over the years. I didn’t want to go.
But here I am, nonetheless, because I do believe. Here I am, out the front of the church, with a couple of hundred eager eyes on my wheelchair. (I wonder if the discreet “Bugger” sticker on the back is offending one or two? I hope so). In my fertile imagination there is one question on everyone’s mind:
“Is he going to walk?……”
I’m not unfamiliar with church; more often than not I have been the one facing the people, and many a time I’ve been the one praying for the sick. How different it is on the other side of the pulpit. In the brief moments it takes for me to be noticed (and Bugger and I are hard to miss!) each of my objections to being here roll crisply through my thoughts.
Top of the list: Embarrassment.
Am I not on display enough, without having to trundle to the front of church before of a crowd of strangers to receive the prayers of someone I’ve never met? My life is already something of a permanent spectacle; whether I’m holding up the queue of passengers while the bus driver climbs out to lower the ramp, or creating a hiatus at the bank by passing my computer back and forth under the glass screen attempting non-verbal transactions with the teller, or providing a living for the team of helpful nurses who keep me scrubbed and clean. I am forever on display! Perhaps I am too proud for my own good, but I don’t think I will ever adjust to this perpetual exhibitionism.
Next on my list: Cynicism.
How easy it is to criticise. I find it so enticing to characterise healing ministry in terms of the excesses of telly-evangelists. I confess I am annoyed by the simplistic approach of the evangelist; reducing almost every condition to the presence of pain, and healing to its absence. About this I shall write no more, tempting though it is to keep going……
(Is he going to walk?……)
A family favourite: Dread.
Am I afraid of a wonderful, restorative miracle? And specifically, am I afraid that it would prove the doctors right? Those eminent men who insist that my problems are “all in my head”. It took the loving ministrations of my family to point this fear out to me, initially to my indignant protestations. But they are right, and I am afraid.
More importantly: Faith.
This is the tricky one. People regularly say something along these lines: “We are still praying for you”. Occasionally I ask them what their prayer for me is, and the answer has never varied: “We pray for healing”. I don’t mind that, of course, but if anyone were to ask me how they should pray, that would not be my answer. Not now, not anymore. This sounds like a lack of faith I expect; like surrender to the inevitable. But people are always wishing things were different one way or another. True spirituality is to live richly with the way things are. Not the way you wish they might be.
Dangerously, there is the matter of: Courage.
I’m not sure that it is safe to be here. I cannot afford to indulge in wishful thinking. “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God,” Jesus said. We all long for the good old days. I could wistfully indulge that fantasy and dream of the days when I could walk and talk. But I am alive right now, not back then. It’s such a trap!
(Is he going to walk?….. Is he going to walk?……)
Thrillingly, I think also about: Relationship.
I am a Christian; I have a sense that I know God, and that I experience his love and provision constantly. How rude if I were to endlessly ask for what seems evidently not to be His plan? I understand persistent prayer, I know how to ‘knock and keep on knocking’; but I remember too that St Paul prayed just three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed, and Jesus himself prayed three times “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Lastly, best of all, I have: Contentment.
Our Little One has Down syndrome, and it has never been our prayer that she would be any different. We pray for her in many ways, but she is who she is; and we don’t reject her by praying that she might be something else. The preacher tonight spoke about being desperate for God to do a miracle, and gave numerous examples of the fruit of such desperation. I can’t connect with that in any way. Every day is a miracle. I am not ungrateful, in fact I am thrilled with my lot in life.
Is he going to walk?……
Is he going to walk?……
As you can see, I’ve got my doubts that he will! And many would say that’s the problem right there. But I’ve got my doubts about that too.