Written by Alexander W. G. Seidel
In my last post, I described the importance of vulnerability as a key way to cultivate greater intimacy with God and others. And I noted that we all have this deep temptation to hide what is dark about ourselves. We fear the rejection or abandonment we may receive from others. These are a very real risk. To riff on a quote from Jack Nicholson in the film, A Few Good Men, some people just can’t handle the dirty truth we all harbor. We can hardly grasp that others could contain what we in our self-contempt cannot. So then, how are we to heal from the shame, guilt, fear or anger imposed on us by both ourselves and others and thus grow in maturity and intimacy?
I think we can all agree that God is the consummate healer. We can assume that any healing since the beginning of time originates with Him. In our Western and very rational way of thinking, we struggle when we hear stories of healing from illness or addiction. Our God seems not enough. Yet, in many cultures far more rooted in the spiritual realm, healing is much more a part of their expectation, though they seek it in many of the wrong places.
I recall a Free Methodist missionary from India recount a story of healing in the village he was serving many years ago. One of the village leaders had a withering disease that was painful and debilitating. For many months, many healers had attempted to reverse the course of his disease with herbs, incantations and all manner of strange rituals, but without luck. Finally, exasperated that the spirits were not cooperating, the village shaman reached out to my missionary friend for help.
The shaman had heard of this Jesus and his healing properties. Perhaps the missionary would be willing to use this Jesus-talisman to heal the man. The missionary agreed to simply pray over the man to see how Jesus might surprise them. You know the rest of the story. In the midst of a direct request to a living Jesus to restore this man, Jesus visibly grew back his withered hands to pristine condition in a moment. You can imagine what happened in this village.
These stories abound. We may not hear them much. But we’d like to experience them. Even for those very painful physical and spiritual areas in our own lives, we just want Jesus to heal us. Now! We yearn. We pray until we are exhausted and mad at all of our own praying. After all, God is God and He is sovereign and all-sufficient. He’ll come through.
In many hours of counseling with fellow believers I have noticed a disheartening trend that, on the surface, reflects a dutiful faith but underneath, breeds deep isolation, stagnation, and a very frustrated spirit. Lots of prayer has occurred, but it has not prevailed. Brokenness festers as fear, shame, guilt, and anger. No results breed a lonely resentment in a God who isn’t acting. Somehow, God has not seen fit to restore the withered parts of these sincere folks. Why is this?
Could God heal in an instant and make all the travail go away? He certainly could. Does He desire that we are freed from the cancerous spoils of sin? Absolutely, He does. But, could it be that in healing us all-sufficiently in a moment, our greater growth, or more specifically, our transformation into the mind of Christ would be deeply compromised? I’d place my bets on this latter option. Sometimes healing takes more than is found in an instant miracle. This is the story of my life and that of countless others who have honored me with their stories.
Back to my opening question: How are we to heal from the shame, guilt, fear or anger imposed on us by both ourselves and others and thus grow in maturity and intimacy? Even as God is fully able to heal us in an instant, I believe He is calling us all to growth through the sharing of our own vulnerability with others. Along with our fervent prayers, tears and fasting to draw near to Christ’s Throne of Grace, He is asking us to take away our fig leaves with others. As we become vulnerable, we’ll grow in humility and the grace we can offer others. As we grow in humility, we grow closer to others, and most importantly, the Great Healer. And thus, we transform more fully into the mind of Christ.
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