Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Healing and Whole

We're talking about the bleeding woman this week and how, after knowing she was healed by just a touch of Jesus's robe, she still had to go home for seven days. She still had to wait the appointed time for healing to be official. She still had seven days for doubt to start to creep back in or, at the very least, to learn how to live as a woman healed. And it seems cruel to us, to a people who know so deeply the ache of just wanting to be healed. Can't Jesus just...heal her? 

He can, and He does, but our human flesh often doesn't work that way. And the truth is that even Jesus knew that. 

If you pay attention as you read through the Gospels, one of the things that you notice is that Jesus's healings often take place in at least two distinct steps - a freeing from bondage and then a healing. Our English is not entirely helpful to us here, as we often read the word "and" as indicating possibly just one action that accomplishes two tasks. It's harder for us to see actions connected this way as being separate actions. For example, if we say that we washed and dried the dishes, our English-processing brains envision one action - "doing" the dishes, a complete task. The words themselves, however, actually indicate two distinct actions - washing and drying.

We just naturally do this; it's the way that our language works. So when we read something like, "Jesus cast the demon out of the man and healed him," we see one action. And when we hear Jesus say, "Your sins are forgiven. Take up your mat and walk," what we hear is one singular sequence of events. It's one act of Jesus, not two. 

But the Scriptures are clear in so many places, and the original context of them is equally clear - overwhelmingly, Jesus's healings take place in two distinct steps. In two actions. In two motions. First, there is the restoring of the sight to the blind man and then, Jesus heals him. First, there is the casting out of the demon and then, Jesus heals the child. First, there is the forgiveness of sin and then, there is restoration of the body. 

This should tell us what we already know - that in order for real healing to happen in our lives, we need more than just the remediation of brokenness. It takes more for the bleeding woman to heal than to simply...stop bleeding. There is so much more that has to be done. 

Take even what we're learning in this pandemic, and what so many of us know from having been sick previously in our lives. Healing from Covid requires more than just not having Covid any more. There's rehab to do. There's strength to rebuild. There are routines to re-establish. The same is true for any healing work in our lives. Healing from abuse requires more than just not being abused any more. Healing from addiction requires more than just not using that substance or engaging in that behavior any more. There's always rehab to do. 

Jesus knew that. That's why we always see Him doing healing as a second work, after the work of setting someone free. That's why we see Him sending some of the "healed" home until they can see the priest. The demon is gone, but there is healing left to do. The bleeding is done, but there is healing left to do. 

And listen, yes. If Jesus wanted to do the healing in one swift motion, He absolutely could. And sometimes, He does. But most of the time, that's not how our bodies work. And despite what we may think about being embodied souls, God never works against our flesh; He works with it. It's part of His grand design for who we ought to be. So to say that Jesus would know and expect and honor the healing work that our flesh has to do is in no way a comment against His absolute power, authority, or goodness. In fact, it's a testament to it. Because what it means is that when Jesus does a healing work in our lives, one of the things He does is to restore the wisdom of our bodies to engage that healing and to begin to work with us...when we've so long been working against ourselves. 

So go back if you want to and read the Gospels. Read the stories of Jesus's healings and see how often they include an "and" that is actually a second motion. See how often healing comes not in one movement, but in two. And then ask yourself again about the bleeding woman. 

What was she doing for seven days when she knew that Jesus had healed her? 

She was healing.  

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