Today I offer you a true story of healing found in the book, "He Touched Me" by John Powell (a professor of psychology and theology who also had his own counseling practice). The healing of a patient he had diagnosed as "neurotic" (always complaining, always indecisive, very egocentric, and forever absorbed in the memories of her painful past). Yet, much to his surprise she was delivered from that ailment through an encounter with Jesus -- an encounter with Jesus that not only changed her, but him. Much of the small book (95 pages) focuses on learning how to be completely open, honest and transparent with God in prayer. It was a point he learned from the Reformer, Martin Luther, whose first law of successful praying was: "Don't lie to God!" He also notes that honest "self-disclosure" is imperative to any true praying and is the essence of true love. This story follows the heading in his book entitled: "Who Is This That Cures The Sick?" Enjoy.
"At the end of the summer just before our university classes were to begin, I answered the phone to hear the voice of a [woman I had counseled numerous times without any success]. I knew she would want another appointment and would want another to agonize along with her while she resurrected the same old problems... But how the Spirit loves to surprise us! The voice I heard on the phone was somehow the same, yet somehow different. My "keen diagnostic ear" said that there was a new peace in her. I had to ask several times, "Who is this?" She quietly and peacefully said that she did NOT want an appointment, that she knew I was busy and did not want to take any more of my time. The only purpose for the call, she said, was to thank me for my time and patience and the help I had given her over the last three years. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
There was all the resonance of sincerity, but such abrupt personality changes just do not happen in real life. So I said: "You're different, aren't you?" And she replied, "Oh yes!" "What happened? I asked. "I met Jesus Christ." 'You what?" I queried. "I met Jesus Christ. Before this I knew about Him, but now I know Him." "If you tell me you had a vision...," I started to say. "No, no vision. But I did meet Jesus Christ." Then I told her, "I don't know whether you want to see me, but I want to see you."
When she came to my office my eye confirmed what my ear had led me to suspect This was a "healed" person. I do not mean to detract one iota from the contribution they make to the lives of wounded human beings, but clinical psychology and psychiatry must not be allowed to pose as saviors or redeemers. Therapy can never be a substitute for a life of faith. I knew, from my training in psychology, that no reputable therapist could ever promise this kind of "cure," this new "wholeness." There is no plastic surgery to remove the psychological scars that all of us bear to some extent. By supportive psychotherapy we can be comforted, and by reconstructive psychotherapy we can be somewhat readjusted and develop new coping mechanisms, but... we cannot be healed or cured. This woman, seated before me, expressing gratitude and claiming to have met Jesus Christ, was "healed." She knew it and I knew it.
Without overtones of pride or egotism, she told me of her experience. She was invited to a prayer meeting. She told me how she decided to go, not really to pray, but to be able to say later that she had, "tried everything, even prayer meetings." However she was not prepared for the opening announcement of the leader of the prayer meeting. He began: "We have come here tonight to pray. And if you can find it in your heart to join us, please stay. We both need and want you. But I have a feeling that some of you may have come out of curiosity, like spiritual Peeping Toms to see what goes on at prayer meetings. If this is why you came, and if you cannot find it in your heart to join us in reaching out to God, then I would like to ask you respectfully to leave." O my God, she thought, decision number one! She did decide to stay, trying to pry her mind away from the "exit" sign, to turn it to the Lord. Then she heard one of the leaders of the group urge the others to "open" themselves to the Lord. "Open all the doors and windows of your soul to the Lord. Don't keep any rooms locked or closed off to Him. Let Jesus take over. The depth of the faith that releases the power of God is measured by your willingness to let God direct your life... Surrender your life and your heart to Him."
She felt helpless to direct her own life successfully, and so, at the exhortation of one of the other people in the prayer group, she sincerely and almost desperately invited Jesus to come into her soul, her life, her world. She offered God her unconditional surrender and He took her at her word, accepted her gift, became her Lord. "For so many years," she told me, "there had been a high, hard, impenetrable wall between God and myself. I used to throw my little gifts over the wall and hope that someone was on the other side receiving them. It was impersonal, unsatisfying. But I thought it was the best I could do or even hope for. Somehow, in that moment -- perhaps it was due to all the other people in the room praying for each other -- the wall came down. Somehow Jesus was standing there with arms held out to embrace me. I knew Jesus as real for the first time." While my friend continued to describe her moment of grace, God was somehow, strangely, having another moment with and in me. I was remembering hungrily all the things that had somehow slipped out of my hands, out of my life. I was remembering the night He "touched" me...
In the days that followed, I began to pray with a new intensity. From the early morning shower till the darkened moments while waiting for sleep, I kept inviting Jesus into my house of many rooms. I kept reassuring Him that I was ready to admit my own bankruptcy, my own helplessness to direct my life, to find peace and joy. I constantly invited the Holy Spirit to take down my walls, to destroy the barricades that were so many years in the building. I asked the Spirit to free me from the ingrained habit of competition, from the insatiable hunger for success, from the need for recognition and adulation. What began to happen in me almost immediately can be compared only to springtime. It seemed as though I had been through a long, hard-frozen wintertime. My heart and soul had suffered all the barrenness, the nakedness of nature in winter. Now in the springtime of the Spirit, it seemed as though the veins of my soul were thawing, as though blood was beginning to course through my soul again, and new beauty began to appear in me and around me."
There is something about a person who has truly encountered Jesus, and been changed by the Holy Spirit, that makes us yearn to experience what they have. In fact, this "thought" is dedicated to such an individual -- a good friend and true man of God from my church who passed away unexpectedly on Saturday -- Steve Reall. His relationship with God (whom he always referred to as "Abba") was passionate, very real, honest, and transparent. Thank you Steve for your friendship, and prayers, and for being to me an example of a true committed soldier of Christ and lover of Jesus looks like. Your example will not be forgotten.
Living in the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff