I wanted to write something else down here, more for the sake of recording it than for anything else.
A couple of weeks ago I went to my very first healing/revival service. To be blunt, I’ve never really seen anything like that before and I’ve been pondering the whole thing ever since.
I want to be careful about how I speak on this topic. The Word says that we can tell a tree by its fruit, and I don’t have any significant doubt that I was in the presence of genuine miraculous healings, so I want to be sure I’m not slandering a move of the Holy Spirit – but I also was puzzled and a little unnerved by the whole thing.
A little background: as I understand it, there is a church in Redding, CA that has been having a significant healing ministry there for some time now. And I understand there are a long list of well documented, miraculous healings coming from that church (Bethel) for everything from the flu to cancer. At some point, they also started a “school of supernatural ministry” for high-school ages and up. Some time after that, they started sending out teams, largely made up of high-school aged believers, to offer this ministry to others. Some time after that...I’m almost there...one of those teams wound up visiting McMinnville, OR which is just down the highway from me. Following?
So one Saturday about three weeks ago I found myself in the community center with what must have been 500-600 other folks waiting to see what this was all about. This is a ministry characterized by something known colloquially as ‘Holy Laughter’ in which the kids pretty much act like they’re nine sheets to the wind. It’s sort of cute, mostly endearing, but I also found it pretty disruptive when I wanted to hear what the (older) pastor was talking about. Part of their ministry is to share this laughter and they come around touching folks in the audience – some of whom follow suit and start laughing drunkenly. I also went up to be ‘blessed’ in this way and though I did not bust out laughing it was undeniable that the touch of these kids had a palpable electricity to it. You could feel...something...in their touch, something big. Did my doubt and reservation prevent me from participating? That’s a fairly reasonable conclusion I think, but I can’t say that I really regret it. I see in myself a certain weakness where ecstatic experiences, even Holy ones, could lead me to seek the experience more than my Lord so maybe this also passed me by simply because I wasn’t ready for that kind of thing. But I digress...
When the laughing thing had sort of built over 45 minutes or so, and the crowd was pretty awake, then the healing prayers started. It was pretty chaotic really. With a crush of people pressing into the stage area and these 15 or so teenagers praying and prophesying and speaking in tongues. A few years ago I would have been very uncomfortable but this night I really wanted to understand something about healing because it’s been on my heart for years (ever since Carol Austin died if you want to know) and if this is what a healing service looked liked, I wanted to see it. But it’s hard to say what I really saw. I know there was an old blind woman right in front of me who came to be healed. A young man with a partially bleached fin of hair prayed for her in earnest...she was not healed. But other folks right around me were announcing significant success - an apparent full recovery from a torn ACL, instant delivery from bi-polar disorder including a man who was at the home church a few years ago and was healed from the same thing – three years and no medication after 20 years with it. Arthritis, lupus, emphysema...unless I want to call all these people bald-faced liars then I was in the immediate presence of genuine healing...and I was curiously underwhelmed. :(
I confess that there is it least some doubt in my mind. How do I know emphysema guy didn’t make the whole thing up? I never saw him before his healing – maybe he was never sick. Lupus? A disease for hypochondriacs! Bah! Humbug!
Healing remains for me a subject that rests comfortably in my mind, but not yet in my heart, which is odd because I was ‘the hand’ in at least one healing...I think. It’s additionally odd because God routinely pings me on the topic. He’s often asking me to pray for somebody’s healing, just this weekend I prayed for Jim MacIntosh – a man in a wheelchair, and I try to be obedient even though I strangely ambivalent. It’s like that guy in Mark, “I believe. Help me in my belief.” And it’s not bitterness or anything ugly like that – I’m not envious of those laughing, healing teens, but something is definitely not connecting in me.
When Odin was in the hospital, I prayed fervently for his healing...and it didn’t go anywhere. When I talk about the miracle that he survived at all, I mean it, but I’m also disappointed. And perhaps that’s at the root of all this. I mentioned Carol Austin earlier. Rebekah and I were in this small group with Carol and her husband who were both (by all appearances) some of the most faithful and solid Christians I’ve ever met. Before Carol knew she was sick she had a vision of Jesus approaching her in church and saying, “Don’t be afraid. You’re healed.” Her response was something like, ‘That’s great Lord – healed from what?” A few weeks or months later she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. For about a year and a half, we prayed in agreement and in faith for nothing more than that Christ’s words to Carol be true and seeing her faith made it easy to agree with her. But in the end she died and I don’t think I’ve really processed that very well. Healing is so mysterious and so long as nobody we love is sick we can sagely ponder the inscrutable nature of God.
But when your son is dieing...
Mysterious seems capricious.
Inscrutable looks a lot like fickle.
I don’t know, maybe I’m a little (a lot?) pissed that Carol died. Maybe I’m sorely hurt by the un-answer to my life’s most earnest and desperate prayer. I’m told that the pastor at this church in Redding started this ministry because his own son is deaf and he longed to see healing there. Something like 1000 healings later and his son is still deaf – in fact, his son has prayed for several other deaf people...who’ve been healed.
I’ve taught that our ability to fight and defeat the demonic rests solidly on both the authority granted to us by Jesus, but also and perhaps more immediately our own ability to believe in and appropriate that authority as valid and real. Do we have the same kind of authority to heal? It would seem the 70 did...and yet if I went to church on Sunday and found that crippled Jim HAD been healed, would that cement my belief in miraculous healing or would I check my calendar for Odin’s next outpatient esophageal dilation and remain ambivalent?