Tag Archiv: healing

From what we hardly have

Christ and the Pool of Bethesda, by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. 1670.  Public domain via wikiart.org

Christ and the Pool of Bethesda, by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. 1670. Public domain via wikiart.org

There is a story in the Bible about a man lying by a pool with healing powers and people everywhere.  Jesus asks him what he’s doing (the healing powers are in the water, not at the side of the pool). The man is too disabled to get through by himself. He says he doesn’t have any friends to help him. They talk. Jesus heals him.

In, “Jesus, A Pilgrimage,”  James Martin gives examples of learning from familiar stories by imagining them. Reading this book is responsible for ruining the previously happy healing story above for me. In the court of divine justice, I now want to be the sick man’s lawyer.

Had he asked for help to get to the pool a hundred times?  A thousand? I see him asking anybody who walks by. For years. After a while he gets discerning. (Rejection burns a lot of energy. He doesn’t know how many more years he’ll be sitting there.) He asks people who seem wise, compassionate, strong. After thirty-eight years, I forgive him if he isn’t paying attention that day. I don’t think it says a thing about laziness, passivity, or lack of interest in healing. If there’s a secret formula where he got it wrong by trying for so long and the actual trick was just sitting staring at his feet, then he and I together will blow up the court, but I don’t think that’s it.

In grade five, I moved to a shiny new far away school. Old and sophisticated, we changed classes many times a day. I felt big until I tried to sit down. I looked for friendly girls, smart girls, interesting girls, even lonely girls. Day after day, class after class, the empty seat beside every single one of them was saved.

I attempted to get to the friendship pool until I realized that not asking was better than being told no. This caused my mother distress at parent teacher conferences that year. My teacher and my mother helped me get to the pool.

The imagination ride wasn’t done with me yet. My mind leapt to the story of the woman who brings expensive perfume to pour on Jesus’ feet. The story says she didn’t have a very beautiful life. But she gives a beautiful thing. She doesn’t seem to need a lawyer. I shake my head watching her. She is giving from what she hardly has. Possibly giving the very thing she herself craves.

About the pool man, God doesn’t cringe in panic at my questions. Or start searching through his bag for lightning bolts to shut me up. I tirade. He listens. I tirade until I’m tired. Then he looks at me and smiles. I love you, is all he says.

I don’t ask him how this figures as a defense of his methods. I start to see things differently. How the man didn’t wait for 38 years because he did something wrong. It really wasn’t his fault that no one helped him. There was nothing he had or hadn’t done to make that particular day the day that Jesus healed him. I imagine him there, unhealed for 38 years, but loved and remembered every 13870 days of it.

A question wriggles, determined like an earthworm, through my mind.What if those days weren’t useless? What if like the perfume lady, he too gave of what he had so little? Can we prove he didn’t watch from where he sat, day after day, and call people aside to let another to the water’s edge?

Comfort. Hope. Mercy. Peace. Acceptance. Reassurance. Companionship. Sitting by the pool, might we not also give (with sheer determination and then joy, abandon) from what we hardly have?

Healing and how the short people do it

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

In the spring, I had a miscarriage that went beyond sad, straight past to scary. My then nine year old was home sick from school. Sick, but quite recovered enough to be enjoying his first Indiana Jones movie while I was passing out on the bathroom floor. Everything was trending with a distinct downward trajectory, so I eventually made him stop the movie and call his father, who could not be reached. Against boy’s strong wishes, but saving him from finding me unconscious and unable to be revived later, I made him call 911. (I would have gotten the phone myself, but the inability to stand and remain conscious was challenging me at the time.)

Son relayed when a police car arrived in the driveway. I had to argue him into answering the door. The ambulance came followed at last by my husband. I worried about my son, but there wasn’t anything to say other than please not to worry, and the ambulance people would make everything better.

In the days that followed, we said thank you. We told him we were proud of him. In the quiet spaces, I tried to check in.

“How are you doing about when you were home with me that day?”


“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.  I just didn’t want to talk to the 911 people.”

“So really, you’re ok?”

“Yeah. I really liked that movie.”


A check in a week or so later yielded similar results. I decided not to push the point. If he wasn’t traumatized because he didn’t understand how serious things has been, I didn’t see anything good about changing that. And if he was upset, he wasn’t ready to talk yet.

Last week, a little more than six months since that day, we were sorting through his clothes.


“What’s with these shorts?” I ask. “You never wear them.”

“Give them to charity. I hate them.”

“They don’t fit or you don’t like them? What’s wrong with them?”

“I hate them. They fit but I’ll never wear them. You were wearing shorts just like that the day the ambulance came.”

“You don’t wear these shorts because I was wearing shorts like this the day I went to the hospital?”

“Yeah. I’m never wearing those shorts. ”

“So you were scared that day?”

“I was so scared. I didn’t even know what would happen. And then they took you in the ambulance. It was a really bad day.”

“I’m sorry all that happened.”

“It’s ok.”

“Are you ok now?”

“Yeah, but I hate those shorts. Give them to charity.”

“They sound like pretty lousy shorts. Maybe we should burn them.”

Boy slowly grins. The thought of the shorts on fire is in his eyes.

“Maybe, I’ll burn mine too,” I say. “I don’t really like the shorts I wore that day either.”

“Yeah, we can burn them both.” Boy laughs, then looks me in the eye. “We can just give them away. It’s ok, Mom.”

My heart lets go a little more, because finally, I believe him.

Uncertain and solid things

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

Once upon a time I was camping with a group of girlfriends. The man I was dating was nearby and invited me for a canoe ride. He arrived early.

Go, said my friends.

I’m still reading my Bible, I said.

Read it later. (They were very insistent.)

I wore my lucky yellow shoes and got in the canoe.

Let’s explore this island, he said.

Maybe later, I said.

The man argued poorly but steered the canoe to the island anyway.

There was a lot of consternation about where to land the canoe. There seemed nowhere flat enough to pull it up onto the bank.

Forget it. I’ll swim for it later, he said.

I protested. A spot was found.

Two bounding steps later, he was fiddling to get something out of his pocket.

It was making sense now.

Will you marry me? he asked and held out the ring to show me.

Yes, I said.

There was nothing else to say so we didn’t say it. It was like holding hands with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh as we walked up the path to find a rock to sit on.

We went from zero to sixty in opposite directions. He from frazzled and uncertain to the top of the world. Me from confident and assured to blithering idiot. Tigger sat down content. I sat down and an entire river system smashed every dam holding me together.

I cried uncontrollably.

I kind of thought it was going to make you happy, said Tigger a little worried.

I am happy, I whispered.  Then I couldn’t talk. I was shaking inside down deep where you don’t let anything touch you. You don’t know how much more it can take in there, you just know it’s not much.

Tigger was relaxed and happy because he didn’t have a clue how dreadfully wrong things could go. Tigger was already so far into the sunset he probably wouldn’t even come back for a year or so. I didn’t believe in sunsets. Didn’t trust them.

An hour later I had stilled the terror enough to stand.  The sun on the lake and the old pines sang something like a lullaby that I recognized. Pieces of the Canadian Shield jutting up all around reminded me that come what may, some things would remain solid.

I like remembering that day.  It was the biggest leap I have ever been asked to make. Now it’s one of the solid things I go back to look at when it feels like too much is shifting around.  Yesterday, Tigger cleaned out the chicken coop and got it ready for winter.  Last night I asked him what he thought of a piece I had written. He hemmed and hawed to say he didn’t like it.

For some reason that made me happy. I woke up wanting to say thank you for those lucky yellow shoes.