They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:26-52)
For many years, I was exhausted. I felt like I was always wading through molasses; I could never get through a day without a long nap. I had twinges in my joints whenever I moved; I was putting on weight; I caught every bug going around. I mentioned this to several GPs, who all patted me on the head and told me it’s grief / you have young children / it’ll go away.
But the twinges became screaming pain. I could barely turn on a tap, pick up a pen, or go up the stairs, so I went back to the doctor. Blood tests established that I didn’t have rheumatoid arthritis or any of a dozen other conditions. I was told it must be viral arthritis, given a script for anti-inflammatories, and told to prepare for the next few months as the virus worked its way through my system.
The diagnosis didn’t fit. I explained that this pain wasn’t new; instead, it was an exacerbation of my normal. The doctor was unmoved, so off I went, clutching my script and wondering.
A couple of painful weeks later, someone recommended a natural therapist. I was pretty desperate, so I went. The therapist greeted me but asked no questions. Instead, he looked into my eyes with a torch for about thirty seconds, then said that I had a deeply depressed adrenal gland. So, he said matter-of-factly, I expect you’ve been having severe arthritis, lethargy and fatigue, chronic dermatitis, weight gain, lots of colds, flus and gastro, bloating after eating wheat, irregular heavy periods, anxiety, and perhaps depression. You’ve been suffering most of these symptoms for years now. What was the traumatic event five to ten years ago that triggered it?
Once I had scraped my chin off the floor, I told him that he had described me perfectly, and that, among a cluster of events, my mother had died. “That would be it,” he said, “but don’t worry, this is easy to treat.” He prescribed a four-month program of meditation, stringent dietary restrictions, herbal tablets and exercise; and he told me I’d be right as rain and full of beans in no time.
I went home and ate forbidden bread and butter, then polished off some forbidden chocolate. That evening, I sucked down a pint or two of forbidden beer, and reflected.
What I began to realise was that I was reluctant even to try.
Of course I longed to be healed. Yet how much of my writing had come out of a slow approach to life that is a physical result of lethargy? How much of my reflective nature is a gift that comes out of pain? How many of my friendships are based on a personality which is shaped, to some extent, by being in this particular body which feels this particular way? I knew how to be an exhausted flat person who feels slightly sick every time she eats a sandwich. I barely remembered the playful, mischievous person I once was; and I didn’t know how to integrate her into my relationships with my husband, my children, or anyone else. I wasn’t really sure that I wanted healing.
It made me wonder about the people Jesus healed: did they, too, struggle to give up aspects of being a cripple, a bleeding woman, a blind man, an outsider? And I wondered whether other people refuse healing – physical, emotional or spiritual – because they’re too scared of change.
I couldn’t answer these questions, but I needed to make a choice. Would I opt for the comforting familiarity of pain and fatigue, and the person I had become; or would I take a punt on the mysterious promise of naturopathic healing and all that might unfold? Finally, I grit my teeth, went shopping, and started the regimen. Within days I felt better. Like a crippled man throwing away his crutches, I threw the anti-inflammatories away and began running up and down the stairs again. I stopped sleeping thirteen hours a day, I stopped getting sick, my skin healed up, and I found myself with a new lease on life.
As a child, I longed for Jesus to cure all my ills. Now I wonder if I met the Great Healer in an uncanny iridologist. He looked into my eyes and perceived my pain, both physical and emotional; he saw me as an integrated whole. It is possible that what was promised has come, once again, to pass: I have encountered Christ in the stranger, and a very strange one at that. Ω
Reflect: Imagine yourself in the story. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” What emotions do you feel? What are you afraid of? Where might healing lead? What will you say?
#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020.
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