Regardless of our personalities, faith, politics, demographics, race, or social standing, one thing we do have in common is that we all need healing. Over the course of our lives, every one of us will need physical or psychological healing at some point.
Healing has been a constant theme in my own life beginning in fourth grade when I was taken to counseling so I could learn to cope with my traumatic childhood. I’ve been in counseling for more years than I can count, except for the years I couldn’t afford it.
I spend a lot of time and effort pursuing healing through prayer, medication, counseling, physical therapy, spiritual direction, and most recently, spending time outdoors. It can be exhausting and discouraging when it’s a long time coming, but it’s also exhilarating and transformative when we wrestle it into reality.
Maybe it’s less about the actual healing we receive and more about how we meet with healing on our journeys that really matters.
The story in John 9 stands out to me for the creative way Jesus healed the blind man. He had slipped out of the temple and was out strolling with the disciples when they passed a blind man. At the risk of letting a teaching moment go by, the disciples draw attention to him by asking whose fault it was that the man was blind from birth.
There is no recorded response from the blind man who’s being used as an object lesson. He doesn’t even ask to be healed. Maybe he heard how others had been healed with just a word from afar or a touch of Jesus’ garment and wondered when his turn would come. Maybe he was a little jaded and didn’t expect anything good anymore.
Jesus answers the disciples’ question, spits on the ground, mixes up a little mud, and wipes it on the man’s face. Saliva. Dirt. On his face. He sat there and let it happen. At that moment, did the man assume that this was just another public humiliation?
I wondered once why he allowed a stranger to perform such an intimate act as touching his face. I realized that he wanted to be healed so badly that he didn’t care how it was done, as long as it worked.
The humility of this man as he received healing stands in contrast to Naaman’s prideful approach in the Hebrew Scriptures. He’s described as being a great man in the sight of his master, highly regarded, and valiant. Yet, all the accolades in the world couldn’t prevent him from contracting leprosy. This was public debasement for Naaman; to be counted as the lowest of the low, the unclean, the untouchable.
Naaman soon arrives at the prophet’s door and Elisha sends a messenger out to Naaman with his instructions for healing: “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
Now we imagine Naaman running for the river; head back, arms pumping, kicking up sand in his wake. But no. “Naaman went away angry.” Elisha didn’t honor him according to his station. He didn’t come out to him personally, publicly heal him, and pronounce him clean.
Elisha’s prescription wasn’t dignified enough for this great man. “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” Naaman believes he knows better than Elisha, that he should be able to control his own healing and choose his own style of recovery. “So he turned and went off in a rage.”
Naaman’s servants knew better than him. “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’” A servant girl had led him to his healing and another servant helped make it happen. Naaman finally submits to his healing. He received what his servants told him, and that day he was healed.
Naaman and the blind man are two men who approached healing with completely different perspectives. One gladly accepted his healing in whatever form it appeared. The other, in his stubbornness and pride, wanted to design his own blueprint for healing. A closer look at both encounters provides glimpses of our own healing journeys, and prompts us to ask ourselves some deeper questions:
How badly do I want to be healed?
A lot of times we think we want to be healed, but in all honesty, we would prefer instant gratification: to feel good, to be comfortable, and to have hearts and bodies that don’t need mending. Do I want to dig in for the long haul? Do I want to do the hard thing for the needful thing?
Am I willing to do whatever it takes to be healed?
Like Naaman, sometimes when we realize what healing is going to cost us (pride? independence? security?) we have second thoughts. We opt for the self-help book, fiercer yoga, some Marie Kondo, a Swedish death cleanse, or a healthier diet.
If we’re honest, we can resist healing for any number of reasons: lack of time, money, and resources or fear, shame, and even denial. Often, our resistance borders on unbelief. But humility makes way for healing.
Jesus’ humility prepared him for his final act of loving obedience–his death on the cross to bestow healing on us and our world. He is our sun of righteousness with healing in his wings. Will we meet our Healer with the same open-handed humility in which he first embraced us?
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