I heard her cries before the clumsy footsteps seeking to keep up with her body’s centrifugal force led her into my kitchen.
“It’s ruined, Mommy! I ruined it!” she said, through sobs as she thrust her Bible into my hand.
My child who cannot yet read, mimicked her mommy by making her Bible a workbench, chicken-scratch and all. Today her over-zealous roulette landed her on a verse that she used a “marker” to highlight. The verse was no longer visible under crayola’s ocean blue.
“Is it gone forever, Mommy?” she asked desperately.
I assured her a post-it note, pasted over, with the handwritten verse would be a way this verse might now, never, slip her mind. “Forever flagged,” I said as I pulled out my pen to transcribe the verse from my Bible over where it was hidden in hers.
My eyes fell on a familiar passage, one of those life anthems, and my breath caught. This was the verse she’d chosen:
“Sing, O barren,
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord.
I could hardly believe it, though I should not have been surprised. I’d been praying this week, in particular, for the intersection of His normal over all of our normals. The children, Nate, me — all of us — Lord, surprise us with Yourself at our least expectant moments. “Lift up the light of your countenance upon us” to be exact, was my prayer.
The one we named Hope was my message-bearer on this particular day, sandwiched in the middle of a month that had my heart all tangled up in the question which sometimes hovers over everything and, other times, hangs out in the background.
There are many schools of thought on His healing. Bible-believing brothers and sisters stake their theological claims all over the map — all over His Word — regarding what He says about healing. I’ve tried many of them on for size and am learning that theologies which stand are those that are rooted in His Word, that you not only say but that you wear — and they forge growth when that very thing you’ve proselytized is challenged underneath your skin.
The question of pain, it’s buried deep in my bones. It is my story, though I’ve barely traversed its circumference, much less reached its center.
What does God do when our body breaks?
I’ve known years of Him as the God who uses my pain, my life’s “not yets”, but what about the God who heals it? Who is He?
Days before she tumbled down the stairs with her happenstance misstep, the wrestling had emerged again in the form of a realization.
I don’t know You as Healer.
We’d had her in our custody for over a month, but every day was fresh to the child who’d known, mostly, only orphan life. She stood like a deer in the headlights over the experiences we introduced — a bike ride to get ice cream, building sandcastles, and bedtime cuddles all elicited the same response. She wore a plastic smile, but it was clear she couldn’t quite figure out how to fit her life story into this new reality.
We’d made it to the beach with my family and were swimming in the ocean, when a quick head-count revealed that she was missing. I scanned the beach, feeling panic rise up within me. I couldn’t find her. Back-and-forth, my eyes darted from the houses hidden, in part, by the dunes to the ocean at our feet until I finally spotted her a few hundred yards down the beach, walking away from us. I ran to catch up with her, no idea why this diversion.
When I reached her with my arms, because even calling her name didn’t get a response, I saw she was clutching her shoulder, stumbling over depressions in the sand. She didn’t want to tell me what hurt, but couldn’t hide it all the same. I pulled it out of her in one word responses.
She’d been stung by a jellyfish.
Her response perplexed me for days.
What child runs away, not to, their mama when life hurts? Unlike my other children, she didn’t clasp hands around my neck and cry into my chest with the expectation that Mommy or Daddy finds a way to fix everything. She went cold. Distant. Minutes before, she’d been splashing salt water all over her siblings, but now she was like a stranger to me.
Mommy wasn’t healer in her life story — mommy was absent.
I see myself in her. Our unhealed parts threaten to cause life-fissures, some ever-so-subtle. Though I’ve seen the side of Him who uses my pain, I haven’t known how to approach Him as One who can heal it. In this one area I’ve seen Him as distant and myself as left to fend.
To ask for healing is dangerous. It’s vulnerable. It opens up longing and gives invitation to hope. And hope is messy. It’s unwieldy. It’s awkward in a life of living by sight. Many of us, with bodies broken, find comfort in accepting what we’ve labeled to be God’s sovereignty, in the form of a diagnosis, that which might actually — and more likely — be our own fear of asking. His sovereignty is oh-so-real, but our translation of it just might be muddied.
It’s easier for me to accept a diagnosis and deal with the fallout of dreams, unmet, than it is for me to open my mind, crowded with thoughts true and untrue about Him, to Him as healer. To know Him as healer requires me to stay, longer than I’d like to, as one in need of healing.
“Be near” is the cry that breaks the orphan spirit — in her, the one who ran away from me when her flesh stung — and in me.
To ask the God who created sea and sky, which both part and fall at His one word, to be near means we are asking the holy, uncreated One to make His normal our normal. It is not an equitable companionship where I remain intact, but an overshadowing of one by Another. It’s His life, power, beauty and strength overlaying mine.
No part of this fits inside of a natural grid. Our entire lives, then, become an undoing of our expectations around what we physically see and a building-up (first on the inside) of another reality. His reality. His Spirit within me is more real than the trajectory before me, paved by human projection. It’s more real than blood-work and test results and signs of a body run amok.
Now, that’s messy. It’s the kind of mess that makes me want to shrink back from wanting to know Him as healer and stay, settled, in knowing Him as the One who uses that which hasn’t been healed.
But friends, He is both. And just when we’ve set up camp in one area of His character, He whispers oh, little child, but there is so much more of Me to be found.
Our lives are intended to be a steady progression into the heart and knowledge of the God who put on flesh so that we might break outside of who our flesh tells us He is. The brokenness in my frame, the question-mark birthed in my twenties still lingering over my thirties, has a multi-dimensional answer in the form of a God-Man who says “search Me out.”
What is it for you? A broken body, too? That family situation that just won’t shift? A marriage in shards but still under covenant?
How much of our broken bodies and broken lives do we accept as lasting forever, when always He is, instead, waiting for us to simply ask be near.
And the question: “what if I pray, seek, and ask and You don’t heal me or heal this?” gets answered in a God-Man whose agenda for me is far beyond what I’ve whittled for myself. To know Him as healer is a windy road; it’s a relationship, not just that one-time moment.
For this season, I have put a stake in the raw ground, albeit weak and feeble.
I want to know You as Healer. “Be near” to this patch of ground that’s yet to know grass.
I can’t expect her to learn to develop childlike hope and expectations of me if I don’t, first, develop that towards Him.
And if, at eighty, my body hasn’t known the healing of the Sarah who went before me, I will know that I pleased Him.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6
And a note: as you may have gathered, summer days in the Hagerty home are for slowing down. Schooling takes on a different rhythm, as do our lives. I’m resuming writing here, but with no set schedule. And since our summer-Mondays don’t feel like Fall, Winter, or Spring Mondays, I’ll be pressing pause on Monday Morning Chais. Adoration is still very much my bedrock. I’ll resume adoring over here, just not on schedule :). You can sign-up by using this RSS feed link: http://www.EveryBitterThingisSweet.com/posts/chai/feed or by entering your email address in the second box on the right-hand side.