Editor’s note: Healing is God’s business. The word may be painful when we are eager for healing to come now or when someone has gone on to Heaven without being healed on earth, but it is the providence and province of the Lord and not us. It is ours to pray and to trust and hope in Him!
Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. — Jeremiah 33:6
When I think of the word healing, I think of a time-lapse video I once saw of a wound on a finger healing. I, along with many others in the comment section, found myself surprised by how dry and crusted the wound looked as it healed. It got worse before it got better.
I have struggled with the word healing for a long time.
Growing up with a sister who has a neurological condition, I had seen church people use this word to claim that if she let them pray, they could heal her if only she had enough faith. We encountered those who seemed set on “fixing” her the minute after finding out about her condition, as if Christians were not allowed to have someone like her in their midst.
For a long time after this, I tensed up at the word. When I began to write for other people’s stories, occasionally I would be asked about healing, but I never knew what to say. I was still trying to find healing from the damage the word healing had done.
One day the word healing came out in a poem I was writing for someone. It fell onto the page before I could stop it:
I am worthy
of the time it takes
to do the things
that heal my heart.
As I prepared to send the poem to the person I wrote it for, I almost rewrote the heal out of it. I couldn’t imagine putting this person in the same situation my sister had been in, even in the smallest way. I went back and read the sender’s original message. Then it made sense why something within me loosened enough to include this word: she had mentioned the word healing several times herself. She had shared with me about her love and her losses, and that’s exactly what she was after: healing. Suddenly, I felt free to write about healing in this poem. Her mentioning healing was permission for me to reflect it back to her. Also, she had written to me about wounds of the heart, the kind of healing that you don’t just see work itself out like a finger cut binding back together in a time-lapse video.
In Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, Kate Bowler generously shares her story of reckoning with mortality when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. In the book, she offers a list with this title: Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times: A Short List. In response to the phrase everything happens for a reason, she says, “I’ve had hundreds of people tell me the reason for my cancer… When someone is drowning, the only thing worse than failing to throw them a life preserver is handing them a reason.”1 Bowler then goes on to offer us a short list of what we can try instead. This list includes “I’d love to bring you a meal. Can I email you?” and “Can I give you a hug?” Bowler gives a window into what it feels like to be on the receiving end of these words and how sometimes the small, practical things are what we need. What I dearly love about this list is how much it involves coming back into the body and into the nonsensationalized practicality of providing balm for wounds.
I once sat in a church service where the pastor declared that we were not doing enough healing and we needed to do it quickly. He referenced Jesus walking and healing the sick, and I couldn’t help but wonder, “Okay… and what about the walking around part? That seems to be a common thread in these Jesus stories… walking around and just being with people first.” I am not trying to minimize where and how healing happens, but I can’t help but notice that we as humans don’t spend much time listening to others’ stories, walking alongside them, and allowing for slow healing.
Sometimes I am told that in my work I don’t challenge people to change enough. That I don’t push hard enough. I receive emails about how I need to be more direct about what people need to fix. But the more time I spend listening to people’s stories and reading them as they enter my inbox, the more I find that, for the most part, people already receive a lot of messages about what they’re not doing. Many are already on the path of realizing what’s not working, and they’re actively seeking a new direction. It’s not that conversations about change aren’t necessary. There’s much to be said about poor decisions and all the issues they cause. At the same time, when I am writing for people that I don’t know, people I have never swapped stories with, I am extra careful with my words. As I inhale what they have shared with me, I exhale with a mindset that even with all they’ve shared, I only know so much about this person.
When someone has kindly invited me into their story, I can give them the gift of my presence.
Often, I have found that when someone reaches out, they’re not looking for advice. They desire what every other human being is looking for in one way or another — to be seen.
Stories, especially stories of tragedy and trauma that we can’t fix, have a way of disarming us. They also can leave us feeling like we have failed if we can’t make everything better. Yet we are free, at any given time, to get down to the bottom of it all and focus on what connects us. We can pause before we speak and say to ourselves, “We are two human beings who, for whatever reason, have crossed paths to be here for this moment. How can I be present to this other soul?”
I think it is far too easy to drastically underestimate just how much people need to be seen. On any social network, you will see friends and strangers alike sharing post after post. At first glance, it can seem to be for vanity. Why are all these people posting so much? Don’t they have other things to do? Do they even have lives outside of social media? But after decades of an ever-increasing, ever-loudening pulse of mass communication, we have all been dealt the task of trying to navigate a global, growing machine that none of us ever asked for. It’s easy to look at a handful of teenagers or irresponsible grown-ups in a viral video and say, “There’s no hope for humanity.” But sometimes we have to sift through the noise to hear the real message.
This is one of the main reasons I have chosen to share poetry and artwork on the internet over the past few years. I don’t think my work has all the answers by any means, but I do believe that in an ever-evolving digital landscape that makes it easy to consume messages about what we don’t have, what we can’t figure out, and who we’re not, it is critical that we also have messages that remind us of what we do have, what we do know, and who we are: human beings who still have the capacity to enter into love, grace, and peace.
A slower, more considerate look at our current landscape finds this: a lot of hurting people who have been dealt something they don’t know how to fix. Sitting with ourselves in the silence has become painfully difficult. Our wounds go deep.
We need healing.
And it is not too late to pursue healing, collective healing, throughout the seasons and cycles of life.
Let’s breathe in the air of each other’s stories and find compassion and patience and grace for one another. And if we don’t get it all right immediately, we can remind each other that we’re still practicing. Day by day. Breath by breath. That’s how we heal. That’s how we grow.
Through Healing, We…
Practice Peace by Not Putting Time Constraints on the Healing Process
No two wounds heal the same. Some take longer to heal than others. Some heal and leave no mark, while others scab over and leave a scar. And then there are those wounds we know are there but can’t physically touch. The ones that leave us with questions: “Why is this taking so long?” “Will I ever heal?” There is no shame in not having the answers. We practice peace by accepting that slowness does not equate to ineffectiveness. Healing differently from someone else doesn’t mean you’re healing wrong. For some wounds, “healing” might feel like finally finding a friend who understands. It might sound like the rumble of the ocean waves that makes you forget about everything else. It might taste like the morning air that reminds you of your freedom to breathe.
Practice Peace by Having Empathy for Others
When we understand that wounds heal differently and at different paces, we are able to have empathy for those who are healing in their own way. Knowing there is no one right way to heal can help us be a healing presence. Be the one who isn’t concerned with rushing everything along. Become someone others can turn to because they know you’re not going to rush to fix them.
What matters more than anything in the healing process is that you are alive.
While you may have a recovery plan mapped out on the calendar, the most important things are the inhales and exhales. Whatever your relationship is to progress right now — whether it’s slower than expected or you’re trekking right along, may you never underestimate the power of each breath. If all you do today is take mindful inhales and exhales, that matters more than you know.
1. Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved (New York: Random House, 2019), 170.
Excerpted with permission from Peace Is a Practice by Morgan Harper Nichols, copyright Morgan Harper Nichols.
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You are alive today. You are not done! God still has a plan and purpose for your life. He has healing for you and it can start right now. Step towards Him! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily