I don’t know how to talk about healing.
Not the kind of healing that calls for band-aids, or bandages, or sips of savory chicken soup. Not the kind of healing that leaves you laid up in a hospital bed, appendages cast with plaster while your mother offers shivering spoonfuls of jello.
That’s not what I mean.
I don’t know how to talk about the kind of healing that comes from God.
It was a Sunday when I realized it. We stood shoulder to shoulder listening as Father read. Front row, first pew, facing East. The story of the paralytic. Paralytic. Paralytic. Paralytic. I wondered how many times the word would be repeated. I wondered if everyone was looking at us, at him, at the little red wheelchair rocking gently against the pleats of my woolen skirt.
Arise, take up thy bed and walk.
It sounded like a challenge,
Instantly, the man was healed.
–like smoke and mirrors.
Maybe if we hadn’t been in the front row or maybe if I wasn’t grown up and expected to behave– maybe if no one could’ve seen me I would have plugged my ears and squeezed my eyes shut tight and hummed all the verses to “Amazing Grace” from the top way down to grace will lead me home. As it was, I held my son’s hand, spinning him towards me until his wheel nudged the toe of my high-heeled shoe. I put my hand on his head like a blessing. Fearfully and wonderfully. It was enough.
Later we packed ourselves into the car.
“Sunday of the paralytic.” I say, fiddling with the air.
“I know.” My husband says, adjusting the rear view mirror.
We stare straight ahead for moment, then sigh and shrug and drive away. We don’t know how to talk about healing.
Maybe some of you are thinking, “Yes, but aren’t we all paralyzed in some way– by fear or doubt or indecision?” Perhaps some of you would like to talk theology, to parse the verses down to the bone until every meaning and metaphor is splayed open like a hunted thing, sewn into a tapestry of context and history. Maybe you think it would help me. Maybe it would.
But this isn’t really about the story of the paralytic, is it? It’s about me. It’s about about my faith and my fear. It’s about the sickness I feel in the pit of my stomach whenever I read stories of healing– stories written by parents thanking God for answered prayers. Prayers that their child will walk. Prayers that their child won’t be like mine. Prayers that leave me defensive and dismissive all at once.
I hear phrases echo on the stage inside my head– a veritable chorus of truth: “Disability is just another way of living in the world. Different not less. Pride not pity…”
There is another voice too. And when she hears stories of healing, of prayers answered upon uttering, she climbs with hands shaking onto the stage, squinting under the bright lights, holding a single note card with five words scribbled hastily in ink. She leans towards the mic and says:
“That’s not how it works.”
Relief. All I feel is relief. Because that can’t be how it works. Because I don’t want that to be how it works. Because if that’s how it works– if I could have asked harder or prayed longer, if my fervor could have changed each tiny strand of DNA and each invisible nerve that runs through my child like a game of telephone, words lost and added along the way– then perhaps my feeble faith is to blame.
Perhaps my prayers were a mustard seed shy of worthy.
The strange thing is that even if healing was just a prayer away, a magic lamp I could rub at will, I’m not quite certain I would opt in.
I’ve written that I want my son to say “disability” and hear “dignity.” I want him to embrace this part of his identity and to see himself for what he is– whole, worthy, equal. Still, we belong to a faith that likes to talk of healing. There is no version of the story where the paralytic says to Jesus, “I’m good thanks. Actually, I quite like myself the way I am.” In the context of the times, the very idea is laughable.
I was reading to my son from a book of Bible stories. “Every day, Jesus was busy,” it says. “He made sick eyes see. He made sick legs walk…”
I stop before the ending. I jump over those final words like a snake on the sidewalk– like they might be poisonous.
Healing is a tricky thing.
So is guilt.
So is faith.
I don’t know how to talk about healing but maybe that isn’t as important as knowing how to talk about love.
Love for the little boy whose very existence lifted the wool from my eyes and stretched the world, making room for pieces I’d avoided and parts I’d never seen. The one who even now is beckoning me into the light through our open front door, “Mommy come see me. Mommy come…”
The one who changed me.
The one who is the paralytic.
Fearfully and wonderfully. It is enough.
More on healing, faith, and disability:
- A guest post for Karissa Sorrell that got me thinking about how having a child with a disability has affected my faith: My faith is a fish
- The article that made me message Beth Hopkins and tell her to be my friend: Why I Don’t Need Your Faith-Healing
How do you understand healing in your own life and in your own faith? How do you explain it to your children? If your child has a disability, do you ever wonder how stories of healing might affect them? This whole thing is a tough one for me. I wonder if I’ll ever really feel comfortable with the subject. As a Christian I feel like I should get it but, at least for now, I don’t.