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Speaking to the Soul: Healing

Speaking to the Soul: Healing

Matthew 9:18-26

A synagogue leader kneels before Jesus and says, “I know you can bring my daughter back to life.” It’s remarkable, isn’t it? That he can know any such thing? Maybe in ancient Palestine people had a different sense of what’s possible than we do, but still. The dead are dead. Always it has been this way.

A woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve long years believes that all she has to do to be healed is to touch the fringe of Jesus’ shawl. That’s remarkable, too: her belief that doing this one, small but completely forbidden thing can bring her not censure but healing. What led her to that conviction?

Both of those healed are female, people of no account in their society. Jesus calls the unknown woman “daughter”, just as the synagogue leader has called the dead child “daughter.” Both are daughters of Israel, and both are brought back to life and full inclusion in their community. But so what? In the grand scheme of things, what changes because two worthless women are made whole?

These days we all know countless worthy people who pray for healing for themselves and their loved ones to no avail. Children die and stay dead; long afflictions continue. And God knows that it is not that the people for whom healing does not happen have less faith or pray less well than those for whom, somehow, it does.

There is a deeper mystery at work here. In his healing as in his parables, Jesus demonstrates a topsy-turvy reality. All the people in the story believe in this upside down perspective. They part the veil of worldly perception and see what healing really is, where it really comes from, and that every single person is worthy of it.

For each of us there is always this: our own unique, vibrant, fearsome relationship with God. Like the synagogue leader, we are called out beyond that in which we have put our faith – our place in society, the mores by which we live, our beliefs and understandings – to the shattering realm of God’s power and God’s love. In our loneliest, most defeated and most drained unworthiness, if we stretch out our finger and touch the fringes of the Holy, we will find our place again. We will find the life-giving bond with God that belongs to no one else but us.

Sick or well, each of us fully belong to and are deeply loved by our Creator. What else matters, really? In the grand scheme of things what counts more than this?



Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO.  You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.


Image: Woman with the flow of blood, from the catacombs, public domain




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Leslie Marshall

–thank you for the beautiful reminder, that we can all draw close to the hem of Jesus’ garment, and just stay there. Like the dumb sheep that we are! Our God may choose not to heal physically, but he always offers Spiritual Healing to those that ask– forgiveness, & acceptance into Eternal Life. I don’t really see the women as ‘worthless’ though…the daughter was well loved by her father, and God’s Word is full of the truth of the value of women. evidenced by these stories. I also work with mentally ill in a pastoral role, and my heart breaks for their condition. ..I pray with them, do bible study with them. I notice that their faith in Jesus pierces through their predicaments. They know that Jesus is not ashamed of them. God is faithful. The good news is, soon , they will have a healed body, and a healed mind, and eternal life with Jesus.

Shirley O'Shea

Ms. Marshall, with all due respect, I consider it cold comfort to know that the suffering of those with psych disorders will experience healing at death. I think that could even be a dangerous focus for someone with a psych disorder.
Jesus is not ashamed of those with psychiatric illness, anymore than he would be ashamed with someone with diabetes. What saddens me beyond words is how so very many people in the church are ashamed of those with these illnesses. I do not consider these illnesses a result of sin and that those suffering with them require forgiveness any more than anyone else. I don’t understand why the church links the healing of the body, which houses the mind, with forgiveness of sin. I know scripture verse refer to this, but I do not understand it and find it very troubling.

Laurie Gudim

Ms. O’Shea,
It’s perhaps a God thing that I found your question this morning after around half of the members of my EfM group last night felt safe enough to talk about their psych disorders. It’s healing to have a group like this, I think, in which there are compassionate listeners and companions on the way. Most people who live with ongoing psych issues know that psychotropic drugs are a real crap shoot and that there aren’t a lot of alternative helpful paths. The church can help out in its small faith groups where everybody is welcome.

I remember consulting with a group like that once. They had a schizophrenic member and they were wondering how they could be present to and loving of that person.

It is my firm conviction, after working for decades as a psychotherapist with a Jungian bent, that God goes along with us on all our journeys. In the midst of an anxiety attack, in the midst of the most severe depression, in the midst of the high of a manic episode or the destructiveness of a binge, God is with us. God does not reject us in our mental illness. Reaching out the finger to touch the fringe of the shawl in this case can be something as simple as praying and continuing to pray even when nothing but the ugly stuff seems to be happening — and/or continuing to believe beyond hope and beyond any evidence you have that you are cherished, even in the midst of the worst episodes.

Here’s another thing that may or may not be helpful: God’s prophets and God’s kings were often people who today would have DSM diagnoses. They lived tortuous lives that were occasionally blessed by the luminous presence of the Holy. They were not “normal”.

Shirley O'Shea

I think it is true that there is a high correlation between deep insight and not being “normal.” That sensitivity is a double-edged sword. I think the worst pain comes when one with such insights and such a capacity for seeing things as they are and what they could be is ignored. I am glad the people in your EfM group opened up about their psych disorders. Mutual support is often exceptionally healing. I’m having difficulty finding a little community like that. When I open up to people in the church about having major depression, some compliment me on my courage in talking about what they call my weakness. I let them know it isn’t a weakness. It’s a brutal blessing. (Someone I know once said to me, “You can flourish in hell.” He is not a Christian. I wish my brethren had such insight.) I see you are in Ft. Collins. I used to live there when my husband I as a student at CSU. I think about going back. Maybe someday we will meet, on this side!

Laurie Gudim

I would like that – to meet.
Yes, a brutal blessing is right.
Don’t give up on sharing your insights, because we all need them. There are people where you are who would be nourished by having you in a small group with them.

Ann Fontaine

And perhaps the fringe is found in those who have these conditions. We had a small prayer group in our church – a member was one who saw/experienced reality very differently from most people. We said to her – we hear this is what you see and experience and we would share how our experiences differed. Acceptance and our sharing of our realities — she said was helpful.

Shirley O'Shea

Ms. Gudim, I appreciate your taking of the topic of illness and suffering. When we discuss spirit, it seems that practically all we have to work with is metaphor. My question is, what does it mean for a 21st century person to extend one’s finger to touch the hem of the holy? I come from a family with pervasive psychiatric illness. Many remedies, no cure. It tries my faith to the utmost. The church, unfortunately, does not seem to have a compelling interest in reaching out to people with psych disorders, I guess because we do not heal in the way people with other illnesses heal; and psych disorders do not always result in death, unless it is by one’s own hand. I imagine the church finds this all confounding and disturbing.

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