Devotion Thirty Eight
So often if someone is sick and has a fever, they take something like aspirin or acetaminophen to bring the fever down. Then, with the fever down, they feel better, so they assume they are better. But all the while, the fever may have been caused by an infection and the infection may still be present. The symptom may have been treated but not the cause.
I suffered from bone spurs and an inflamed achilles tendon. I limped and had pain in my. heal for two years. It was finally decided that surgery was necessary to correct the situation. I had the surgery. And after several months, I could walk without limping and without pain. I had the desired outcome. Yeah! On the outside, things looked fine. But inside there was still a problem. There was infection in my heal at the surgery site. The doctor informed me that another surgery was necessary to address the infection. What? That again? I really did not want to go through the knee scooter and the walking boot and the no driving for weeks on end even though covid had severely restricted my activities. So, I told the doctor, I have what I wanted. I can walk without limping and without pain. What if I don’t have the second surgery? “That will end in amputation,” she told me. So, the second surgery was scheduled and all is finally well.
We know from our health problems that we need to deal not just with the symptoms but with the causes of our maladies and our problems.
A new climate report has come out informing us that the situation with the climate of Earth is more dire than had been predicted. Things are deteriorating faster than expected. So, people talk about building new buildings higher and putting the garage on the first floor so apartments don’t flood. There is talk of better drainage and sewer systems. There is talk of beefing up building codes. These kinds of discussions are all about the symptoms. To address the problem, the cause, humanity has to severely limit the use of fossil fuels immediately. The US has to stop subsidizing oil, gas, and coal. And those resources have to be redirected to providing energy to the masses from renewable sources. There have to be significant penalties for methane emissions so that industries will alter their methods of production. There have to be statutory limits placed on plastics and Styrofoam which are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The response has to address the causes not just the symptoms.
This challenge of addressing the causes not just the symptoms is also a faith issue. Jesus did not just heal people, he healed them and invited them to be in community. They did not just go their own way as individuals relieved of disease or impediment. Jesus was also about providing support, community, relationships, and spiritual practices that would promote ongoing health and wholeness.
We are trained to give the impression that we are fine. We try to look fine on the outside. When someone asks, How are you? We know that we are to reply, I’m fine, thank you. How are you? Fine. But on the inside, we may really be in pain. Maybe we are grieving all that we missed during covid. Maybe we are distraught, as we should be, over the climate crisis. Maybe we are dealing with the realization of our own mortality. Maybe we are distressed by the war in Ukraine. Weren’t we over that? Maybe we or someone we love is struggling with addiction or mental health problems. Maybe there is a cancer diagnosis. Maybe we are not taking care of ourselves and it is affecting our physical health or our behavior and relationships. There may be a million things tugging us every which way, but we say we are, Fine. And we make sure that we appear to be fine.
Church is a place for honesty. A place where we are to be who we are, to be honest about the pain we are experiencing, the problems in our lives, so that we can draw on our faith as a source of healing. At church, when someone asks, How are you, we don’t have to lie and say, Fine. We are here to be a community of healing and support for one another. Jesus saves us not just from the symptoms of our issues, problems, and sins, but from the causes. And that happens in community.
How are we being called to be a healing presence in the lives of others and the world?
So often we just want the pain to go away – physical pain, grief, spiritual pain, memories of the hurts we have endured. Pain can be numbed with substances and behaviors that distract and deaden. So in these reflective days of Lent, we ask how is Jesus inviting us to wholeness and healing? May we accept the healing and the saving that Jesus offers. Amen.