11 March 2013

Confessions: When Sciences Trumps Faith

Nearly a year ago, a patient came to see me for a pair of crutches.  He had a low level, incomplete spinal cord injury.  That means he could feel pressure in some parts of his legs and light touch in others . . . he could walk, sort of.

His gait pattern was by no means worthy of the runway, but he was able to get from here to there with significant effort.  Our hospital director had met him at a church about an hour away, and upon seeing his terrible, heavy, homemade 'crutches', promised the man a new pair if he could get himself to our hospital.

The man arrived the following day.

It had been two years since his injury.  He had been traveling on the road between the capital city and BurkinaFaso, one of our western neighbors, when the bushtaxi he was in was pulled over by bandits.  They made everyone exit the vehicle, stealing all their money, and they beat this poor man, breaking his back.

He spent many months holed up in the national hospital and was finally sent on his way, full of hope that God would soon heal his body.

Fast forward two years . . . and this gentle man is test driving his new crutches in my office.

'When will God heal me?' he asked.

'I'm sorry??' I asked, confused as to why he believed his spinal cord would heal.

'I've been praying everyday for two years that God would heal my legs so that I can walk again, but why hasn't He answered?'

I stared at him.  No one had ever told him.

'When will I be able to walk normally and work my fields again?'  He pressed me for answer.  'Why isn't God healing me?'

Grief is not experienced only when a loved one dies.  There is a profound sorrow that comes with the loss of function . . . and it is indescribable.

As I explained the nature of a spinal cord injury, I was forced to tell my patient, as he sat alone in my office with his support system an hour away, that, no, he would never walk normally again.

'But what if I pray for a miracle?  If God does a miracle, can't I walk again?'

'Well . . .' I hesitated, 'Yes . . . I suppose God could do a miracle . . . .'  And I stopped.  I'm a missionary after all, I have to say God can do miracles.  But I stopped because I didn't believe He would.

I've seen miracles in Galmi . . . but a two year old spinal cord injury??  I couldn't believe it.

I wish I was writing to tell you that this man came back into the therapy gym today, crutch-free and limp-less . . . but he hasn't.  And I still don't believe he ever will.

Instead, earlier this week I had to tell another man that he would never walk again . . . a young man whose life was altered over a year ago from a car accident which resulted in a brain injury, that left him impaired physically and cognitively.

'But when will God heal him?' his brother asked.  'When will he walk again?'

'He won't.'

There is a deafening silence that comes as the truth sinks in.

In a culture where 'no' is not said outright . . . but in a roundabout, indirect sort of way . . . I couldn't find another way to say it.  I had no hope to offer . . . because I know the body and I know the way it heals.

But, shouldn't I know God too?  And the belief that He is still in the business of working miracles?  But the reality is, I'm just like those disciples in the boat with Jesus . . . the wind and waves pick up and I'm so confident that science is predictable, I know shipwreck is inevitable.

And instead of crying out to Jesus, ready to hear 'PEACE!  BE STILL' as the sea obeys His commands, I lack the capacity to offer genuine hope because I find myself tossing on the waves of doubt that the Man of Sorrows is capable of doing the impossible.

So tonight I am left pondering if He could tell a man in Capernaum 'GET UP AND WALK' why am I full of doubt that it could happen again, only this time, in Galmi?


BARB said...

We are in the middle of an all-church Bible study on the book of Luke and have just been processing Luke 7 and 8 where Jesus is healing and teaching about who He is and what he came to do. He obviously CAN heal people, but it appears that in our modern times, those "sensational miracles" do not often happen, and are not promised us. In Biblical times, they were meant to be both a means of demonstrating Jesus' knowledge of and compassion toward humanity, as well as to compel people to hear Him and bring others to see Him as God. The miracles were also a way to communicate spiritual truths. In my opinion, it is difficult enough for Christians to understand and accept that God wants to build our character and our relationship with Him more than he wants to "rebuild" our bodies, but we all pray for miracles as a way of acknowledging He CAN do this. So I can imagine that it is very disheartening for a non-believer, a seeker, or a new believer to accept that God's real healing might be slower and happen in his heart and not his body. I will pray for your communication and your strength and appreciate your decision to not offer false hope in a "false God." Love you, Deb, and the work you are doing! BARB

Leah Long said...

Check out the sermon from Sunday: http://vimeo.com/channels/aacsermons and choose Brian Episcopo's "Ingredients of faith." I hear ya--I'm the disciple saying, "Yeah, boat's gonna sink." I'm not the leper just earlier in the chapter who says, "I know you can do it; I'm just asking if you're willing." I'm not the centurion just after that saying, "I came to you, but you don't have to come to my house! Just say the word."

soph said...

When will he walk again? In the new creation, when Jesus returns, restores our physical bodies, when there will be no more grief, no more crying, no more pain. This is the hope we live for! that's why we pray 'Come Lord Jesus, Come!'