Luke: 6: 18 “They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.”
It is almost Palm Sunday. I try to keep the story of resurrection before me with images of palms, feet washing, betrayal, dying and new life. But it is all mixed in with bunny rabbits and eggs. I avert my eyes when I walk through the store with aisles of Easter baskets and chocolate candies. It is a jumble of childhood fun and something that cannot be contained.
Easter doesn’t come for everyone. Some of the youth with whom I work see themselves stuck in betrayal and death. But for some, a connection is made.
Luke has it right. We come to be healed. We who are troubled are cured.
A young girl sitting across the table from me asks “Okay, you say that I am a child of God. Is that for real? How is it possible?”
We talk. She wants proof that she is as good as anyone else. No, she wants to know she is somebody. She wants to be healed of all the taunts and abuse that lodges within her. She wants to be cured of self loathing. She wants to know that resurrection is real. A bunny rabbit doesn’t freight the meaning.
Soon after this encounter I visit a youth in juvenile detention. He gets caught frequently drinking and fighting on the street. I spend quality time with him when he is in jail. As I am his only visitor, he wants to talk even with a security guard in the room. “How do I convince the judge to let me out of here?” he asks again and again. It is a little complicated since he cursed the judge at his last hearing. I suggest he write a letter that gives a good reason why he should get out.
The following week he greets me with joy. “I know what to tell the judge. I can tell him that someone who loves God loves me.”
Part of me is glad that he has made some connection in trusting me. A larger part of me is brokenhearted that he has not made a connection to that which provides him identity and purpose. He does not believe in a God who could possibly love him. How can he believe that if he dies to a destructive self that he will not just stay dead? How can he believe in a resurrection when he cannot see beyond death?
“Are you afraid to change?” I ask.
“I don’t think I can,” he replies. “I always go back to what I did before.”
We talk then of the power of ceremony. I ask him to learn a prayer which we will say each week at our jail visitation, even if we do not fully believe what we are saying. He agrees and we pray “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the Word and I will be healed.” That prayer coils itself in and around our bones, into those hidden places where we are still afraid.
This is an Easter story. It is the long journey we each take to go beyond what hurts toward the one who heals us. It is our connection to that which is eternal, which is profound, which is wholeness.
Kaze Gadway has worked with the emerging leaders of the Episcopal Church within the Native American community of Northern Arizona as a volunteer for eleven years. They are youth of promise from ages twelve to twenty-four. The Spirit Journey Youth is an outreach program of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona with forty young people. She is on Facebook and blogs at infaith’s posterous