Monday, October 7, 2013

Healing for the healer

From Toledo, IA
Stained beauty; in the former Otterbein United Methodist Church, Toledo, IA
Last night our monthly prayer group met at an unused and slowly deteriorating church sanctuary here in town, as is our custom - but after our initial worship and opening prayer we went outside into the gray afternoon and walked a few blocks to the home of a husband and wife who usually meet with us. They were home because the wife had recently undergone open heart surgery and was still recovering, so we went to them to pray for her continued healing.

But last night I was not in the healing mood. I was in a real funk and struggled through the praise songs (I usually struggle through any praise song, even on my best days) and through the prayer. They did soften me up a bit but I was still carrying a lot of angst as we walked from the church to the house, and my friend Travis - who leads our prayer group - could see it on my face.

When we arrived at our friends' house they welcomed us in with smiles and embraces. Their hospitable welcome started softening me up more. As we sat listening to the wife's recounting of her successful surgery and good initial recovery, I paid special attention to the look on the husband's face as he watched his wife tell us her story. He had a smile of profound joy and love for his partner and her wellbeing. It softened my heart yet further.

When we gathered around her to lay hands on her and pray, we prayed for specific areas of healing for her ongoing recovery. As we each spoke our prayers for her, I gave thanks to God for the picture of Christian love I was witnessing in their marriage. When the husband prayed, he gave thanks for the spiritual heart of his wife which had only grown stronger through this and other health trials of recent years, and how it's impacted their wider family. He also acknowledged that our life is not our own and whatever the outcome for any of us - more days or fewer, sickness or health - life itself is a gift we receive and ultimately relinquish for the hope of resurrection on the last day and life abundant beyond that. For the meantime he had this prayer: "It's not how long we have, it's what we do with what we've been given. It's not what we know, it's what we do with what we know."

As we left their house, I reflected with Travis that through our service of healing prayer for our friend and sister in Christ, I had experienced healing myself.

I've never read any Henry Nouwen, but my spiritual director through grad school loves him and quoted him often when we met regularly for those four years. So I know that Nouwen has a book called The Wounded Healer, and that's an image that's been an inspiration for me.

My reluctance to pray for healing of others was born out of being mired in my own struggles, and it was through the embodied and relational spiritual practice of healing prayer for others that lifted me out of the muck. The conclusion of the Prayer of St. Francis strikes me as fit, and no more so than in times like last nigh:
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Perhaps it is through healing that we are healed. When wounded healers gather together to petition God's Spirit to administer healing, that Spirit's work is called on, channeled, and focused. And in God's economy of abundance, such healing cannot help but rubbing off...

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