He’s been coming to Manna House for many years. When he came in on Tuesday I noticed the hospital ID bracelet on his wrist. He told me the doctors thought there was something wrong in his head. Depression. “I don’t trust them,” he said.
He had found his own medication, crack. The words poured out in a frenzied manner as explained that he tried again and again to not use it, but he always went back. He came up to me and said, “Heal me!”
“Heal me!” he insisted.
“I can’t heal you. I’m not Jesus. I’m not a doctor.”
He took my arm and raised it up, placing my hand on his head. I envisioned TV preachers, hucksters, fakes.
I remembered my uncle Mose who once reclined in an easy chair as his mother (my grandmother, a woman of deep faith) watched one of those TV preachers. The TV preacher extended his arm, hand on head, and shouted to a man with an ailing back, “Be healed!” The man shouted in response, “I’m healed! I’m healed!”
At that same moment my uncle Mose felt his back tighten up and spasm and he came up out of his chair shouting, “That son-of-a-bitch gave it to me!”
What should I do with this guest demanding that I heal him?
“I cannot heal you. I can pray for you.”
“Then pray. Pray that I be healed and never use crack again.”
So I prayed. “Lord Jesus this man wants to be free from his addiction. Give him the strength to find the help that he needs. Help him to find healing and wholeness. Be in his life. Abide in him. Heal him. Amen.”
The guest smiled and thanked me and became less agitated. He sat down.
I have spent the last few days wondering about prayer, again. And wondering about the power of addiction, again. And wondering again about the insufficiency of places and programs that tell people, “If you’d just give your live to Jesus, you wouldn’t be an addict anymore.”
I know Jesus healed people. I know people who after doctors had told them there was no hope for them were healed, and those people testify that it was God, in prayer, that healed them. But I also know people of deep faith and prayer who have not been healed. They prayed for healing and they were not physically healed. They died.
So I also know healing is more than physical or even psychological well-being. I know healing can be spiritual. I know people who prayed for physical healing who died faithfully accepting their death.
I am left with this guest and his addiction and his mental illness and his suffering on the streets. And I am left with still praying, for him, for healing.
It is still the season of Christmas, a season in which I celebrate with other disciples of Jesus, his coming into the world. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is described as the Light that “shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5).
Most days I feel like I am in the dark. But maybe this guest asking to be healed is where the Light comes in. Maybe the Light comes in when in hope and in faith and with love he asks for healing.
Deep in me as I prayed, with my hand on his head, standing in the living room of Manna House, surrounded by others, I felt this possibility, that the Light resides in our shared unquenchable desire for healing, for a loving touch, for salvation.