Wednesday, March 28
Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. March 2:3-4
Twenty percent of the gospel stories tell of healings. They were Simon Peter’s mother-in law; a leper; a paralytic; a deaf mute; a blind man; ten men with leprosy; and a royal official’s son. All of these stories end with the same tag line: your faith has made you well – or some translations use the phrase your faith has made you whole.
So you can imagine my surprise when I met with Graeme Steele, the surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Jonathan Rosenberg, the oncologist at Dana Farber, after receiving a diagnosis of 3rd stage cancer in my bladder last January, when Dr. Steele asked me, Who is on your healing team? Healing team, I thought, isn’t that why I am here at two of the best hospitals in the world? HMMM. Silence.
And, then I thought, I don’t have to recruit a healing team, as I have one in place already. They are my colleagues, friends, and my church friends at Edwards Church. And, they already know what needs to be done – to pray constantly and fervently that this treatment plan of chemo therapy works on the tumors and that the surgery finishes up what the chemo wasn’t able to do!
Months of the same routine – a week of chemo therapy – a week of rest – a week of chemo therapy and a week of rest and recovery. My youngest son was in charge of entertainment at those sessions - DVD’s that were Mom friendly! A church member came to my home for follow up shots at the end of each weekly cycle – and others provided treatments along with nutritious soup when everything tasted like cardboard! And, when just taking a shower, getting dressed and attempting to eat breakfast took most of any day, the Board of Christian Education and others substituted for a ministry in the classrooms that I loved but didn’t have the energy to do.
On Easter Sunday I remember sitting in the pew wondering if I had the energy to go forward for communion. I wasn’t sure I could get out of the pew and return again. You prayed and sent cards and made meals and knit a hat when I lost my hair and provided encouraging words and hugs when I wasn’t sure life would be as I hoped and prayed it would be. And your prayers made me feel whole as I prepared for surgery!
May 19th has come and gone and it is now feels like a distant memory of a plan for physical recovery that was made a long time ago. When I met with Johanthan Rosenberg for follow-up he mentioned that 8 members of my research group of the 30 had died during the last year – but you – you are doing remarkably well – and then he looked at me and said – but we don’t know why!
Without a moment of silence I said but I know why! He listened carefully and then quietly replied – but we can’t quantify prayer! And, my retort was sharp and quick – that isn’t my problem! That is your problem! The prognosis is good. In fact very good. I don’t need to return to Dana Farber until an annual run of tests which I agreed to be part of for the next five years.
I don’t begin to understand the complex interaction between body, mind and spirit. I know that many of you have prayed a number of times for physical recovery and have not experienced the same outcome as I have come to know. But what I do know for sure, is that prayer matters for wholeness! Healing and wholeness provide more than a cure or a remission of stage three cancer. It presents itself as a promise and a reality that I have a new sense of myself and all of you as a community of faith. I am grateful for modern therapy – don’t get me wrong! But my healing is much more. I am now a new me. And, it is a new understanding of each of you as I experience your vocation as a community of faith as a healing presence. It is a renewed call to ministry by each of you in the name of the one who heals. It is through prayer and the naming of the renewing power of God’s Spirit found through each of you that I have experienced that it is faith that makes you well – it is faith that makes you whole. Thanks be to God. ~Susan Dickerman
Lord, thank you for physicians and healers; those who pray with and those who pray for. Thank you for the healing that comes cures and the healing that comes from the peace within that makes us well.