Through the first week of the Easter season I've found myself returning again and again to Jan Richardson’s Easter Sunday meditation, watching Mary as she encounters the newly risen Jesus in the garden.
Jesus said to her, "Mary." (John 20:16)
“You think that you would give anything just to hear his voice again: the way his words resonated in your heart, your chest; the timbre of his laughter; how he would, in the midst of the most ordinary moment, suddenly break into song.
So when, in your weeping, you hear the sound of him speaking your name, you are stunned, then elated. You want to reach out, to gather into your arms the one you had thought forever gone.
What you do not know is that resurrection is not quite the same as return. You will learn, and soon, that it comes with a cost, that new life really means this: means new, means that it will not be the same as before, means that you cannot hold onto him, means that you will have to let go of everything in order to know him and love him as he is now. As you are now, yourself altered beyond imagining.
You will learn that the cost of resurrection is also the gift: that having to let go -- again, but differently -- will propel you into a life you could hardly have dreamed on your own. Into the aching and empty space of your outstretched arms, a whole new world will enter. And this awful hollowing inside your chest: this is your heart becoming larger. This is the space you will need in order to hold him now.”
Our pastor begins a new series on Jesus the Healer and I find myself needing to hang out in the garden with Mary and ask the hard question: am I willing to let go? There was cost in letting go of my medical career and health and work overseas. There will be cost, too, if Jesus chooses to bless with physical healing. Am I willing to stop trying to hold onto Him as I have known Him in these years and let Him lead me into knowing Him in whatever way He now wants to receive my love and give Himself to me?
To live again I have to let go.
I hit up against places I'm not yet willing and ask Jesus for help—tell Him I want to be made willing and ask Him to help me see what underlies the fear I find in myself. He does. It’s these two things:
1) The fear that God will change. It sounds silly put that bluntly, but I needed to be reminded that the God who has been so gentle and provided so beautifully through the past leg of this journey will continue to be the same gentle provider whether the next bit of terrain looks much the same or entirely different. (Deut 1:29-32)
2) The fear that God wants to totally change me. This one is an easy lie to fall for because in one sense God does completely change us—"I no longer live but Christ lives in me." The complete and total change of death always comes before resurrection. But in the mystery of things, God’s goal in that is not to make us someone we're not but to set us free to be our unique, beloved selves.
This speaks into a key fear for me—that if I'm physically well I'll have to be out there serving all the time, working myself to death like I was before. . . that if I can do something, I'll have to do it. I forget that God likes it that I ache to spend long hours listening to His heartbeat and then writing and mentoring in ways that help others hear too, forget that He has made me that way, put that passion in me, and has spent these years calling it out in me, forget that when I asked if it was really okay to let go of the busyness of medicine and pour all my energy into listening to his heartbeat and helping others listen, he said "I want it more."
True, the next phase of listening and helping others listen might look different than I expect. Uncomfortably, stretchingly different. But I can trust that His heart is not to crush me but to set me free, not to turn me into someone I was never meant to be but to help me be even more my true self in deeper communion with Him.
The morning He reminded me of that, He underscored it with words from Holley Gerth waiting in my inbox: "You are not called to live up to your 'potential' - to do as much as you can, as quickly as you can, for as many people as you can. You, my friend, are simply called to say yes to God."
It's only in the context of those reminders that I can hold both the possibility of being healed and of not now being physically healed in open hands. God loves me and loves who He has made me to be. He is for me. He wants to keep bringing me closer and setting me more and more free in His love. He knows the best way to do that, and I will trust Him.
Looking for a balanced, Biblical perspective on healing? Darrell Johnson's sermon is a great place to start.