Q & R: Reshaped the landscape of my life ... but what about healing?
A reader writes:
Firstly I want to thank you for all you have contributed to helping me grow in my faith. In particular, Naked Spirituality has become one of only a few books that has truly reshaped the landscape of my life.
For some weeks now I have had a niggle at the back of my mind and it concerns healing. I find little reference to this in your work and, in part I understand this. One thing that people say unthinkingly is “God showed up”. Really. So where was he before then? Now I realise it is just a “thing people say” but it underlines an issue that I have had with the miraculous.
My (astoundingly ordinary) view is totally that G-d operates on a continuum and what we see as miracle is but the tip of the iceberg. Always “underneath are the everlasting arms”.
He is never silent, even though we may not hear, ever present; whether or not we discern Him. A couple of years ago, my friend, under extreme stress, facing redundancy, developed a condition where her hands were paralysed. They became like immobile claws. Very difficult to do anything at all. She asked for prayer; but for a new job, not her hands! Maybe an extra disappointment or extra guilt at her lack of faith was something she calculated she could do without? A couple of hours later, the prayer offered (in spite of her request) for her hands was answered and full function returned, defying the expectation of the doctors. She did not get the full-time job she wanted though, although she has been able to resourcefully support herself. Here is part of the mystery, she got what she didn’t ask for, but clearly needed – healing of her hands. She did not get what she asked for, but maybe she doesn’t need right now. G-d knows.
So, Brian, this is a gentle, gentle challenge. Hardly tit-for-tat with all the explosive challenges you have had to face. J How much room in your theology is there for a G-d who heals and performs miracles here and now?
For some time there wasn’t in mine and I think that I was (once again) mistaken. But He doesn’t do “magic” this is integrated into his wider care and wisdom. And there is still great mystery. The prayers that are answered can be a problem to me, as well, and perhaps more than those that aren’t. ...But I thank G-d alongside my friend that He knows and understands - and that has to be enough. Thanks for reading this, and keep up the great work!
Here's the R:
Thanks for this beautiful story and the good question. The tip of the iceberg is a much better image than "God showed up" - because, with you, I believe God is always, already here.
That's my problem with the standard "concept" (not the reality) of miracles. In our post-enlightenment world, the basic assumption is that the universe is mechanistic, and a miracle is when God intervenes from the outside to change the mechanism. I think part of our postmodern challenge is to see the universe in post-mechanistic ways ... and to see God less in modern-mechanistic ways and more in terms of the original biblical imagery that is far more relational (wind, fire, breath, rain, shepherd, father, mother, friend, etc.). This is all the more true in light of Jesus - incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, even ascension (properly understood), and Pentecost all affirm that God is "inside" with us, here and now.
So there is plenty of room in my theology for a God who heals and performs miracles. I might add that in my theology, every time a broken bone is set by a caring doctor and heals, God is present and a miracle has occurred ... just as when a mysterious healing occurs like the beautiful one you describe. In one case, we understand some of the mechanisms - in the other, we don't - but both are wonderful, amazing, grace-filled, and holy, at least as I see it. I think of this great song by Peter Mayer: