They say you can’t teach an old dog a new trick. The older I get, the harder it is to change learned behaviors, throw out old thought patterns, and grow into a better version of myself. Most of the time, I just want to say to the world, “Here she is… this is as good as it gets!” Sometimes, God has a problem with that position. I happen to think that at 48 years old, how much more work can He really do? And then He decides to show me.
I grew up in a church tradition that didn’t really talk much about the healing power of God. We did recognize the all-powerful nature of God, but no one really talked specifically about it much. In fact, I think we were afraid to. I learned the stories in the Bible where Jesus healed people, even dead ones. Now that’s power. But when someone in our church fell ill, while we prayed for them to feel better and hoped really hard, I’m not sure there was a lot of prayer for real healing. It was as if that would have been just too much to ask of the Almighty God. We can’t really expect God to heal someone because we ask Him to, can we? Isn’t that going just a bit too far?
It can get a bit difficult to maneuver with shackles like those on all the time. In this case, I’m talking about believing fully that God CAN heal, but holding back on believing that He WILL.
Fifteen years ago, my husband fell ill. We had just planted a new church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Matthew and I had three small kids with another one on the way, and quite unexpectedly, my otherwise healthy husband landed in the ICU with encephalopathy.
Doctors were telling me that “if” he recovered, it would be a long haul of therapy ahead. I was all alone. Any family we had was at least six hours away. I sat in the ICU and stared at my unconscious husband and wondered what in the world I was going to do. It was Thursday, and Sunday was coming.
I rubbed my stomach and thought of the baby growing inside. I thought of my other three kids who were with my neighbor and tried not to panic. With Matthew in the care of the nurses, I made a quick trip home to shower and check on my kids.
It was during that ride home that I wiggled out of my shackles and pleaded like never before with my heavenly Father. In all honesty, my first question was, “What in the heck are you doing?!” Followed closely by, “Don’t you remember you led us to plant this church? And what about our kids? They are telling me he might not recover from this!” And finally, “God you have to fix this. You HAVE to make him well.” I knew He could do it, and I was asking for it.
And about four hours later, He did.
After coming in and out of confused consciousness for about twelve hours, Matthew woke up, shockingly coherent, to the complete surprise and astonishment of his whole medical team. “This just doesn’t happen.” Said one.
Matthew stayed in the hospital for a couple of days just so they could make sure he was really okay. Aside from some headaches, he was.
I knew that God had heard my pleas and had healed my husband. Was God going to heal Matthew anyway, even if I hadn’t asked? I will never know the answer to that one. All I can say is that He did.
For lots of us, it’s just easier to say that God doesn’t do those sorts of things anymore. Many people, learned people, think wonders like healing were simply to get the attention of a new movement through Jesus; that God relied on sensationalism to jump start the church, and then He took all that away after the church had been established. I used to think along those lines, too. Honestly, it’s just easier to think that way. Safer. We prefer that God not be sensational. That’s just too weird for most of us. We like a predictable God; a God we can fit inside our brains. One that we understand. See how nicely those shackles fit? Most of the time, we don’t even feel them.
I’d like to say this old dog learned her trick and left those chains behind, but it’s truly curious how easily we can slide back into them. I recently found myself in that place of need with God once again… only to find myself still bound by doubt and uncertainty. But that’s a story for another day. I will say this old dog is practicing a new trick and she’s getting better at it.
Maybe, like me, you can sometimes shackle yourself into believing less of God than He deserves. Or maybe you have shed your chains for good, and are witness to God’s amazing power on a regular basis. I know I’m not the only one who has struggled here…and each journey is unique, but the traveling is easier when we journey together. I’d love for you to share your stories of healing, and I imagine there are others who would like (and maybe need) to read them! Can we loosen some chains around here?