God is Not a Genie ((And Other Thoughts on Healing))

“There isn’t anything God can’t do!” “God the mighty healer!” “God renews, transforms!” “We are made into a new creation- behold!- the old has gone and the new has come.”

Sound familiar?
These are awesome truths about our God.

But they can’t be taught in a vacuum.

Knowing these truths alone won’t change you. Neither will praying them.

Because God is not a Genie.

No. Leave that for the blue guy in Aladdin, who sings “I’m here to answer all your midday prayers. You got me bona fide, certified. You got a genie for your chare d’affaires. I got a powerful urge to help you out.” (Feel free to sing along to the rest of “Friend Like Me,” all you Disney kids of the 90s out there.)

Instead of a Genie, we have the maker of the universe who calls us into maturity, who heals, restores, renews, refreshes our souls.

But how?

How, exactly, does God heal us? Grow us? Change us?

Because maybe you’ve been praying for God to “change you,” to “heal you,” or, perhaps in your most desperate moments, shouted out a dire, “Fix me! [Now!].” And you might still be sitting there. Waiting to “get healed,” “get fixed,” “be whole.”  And you’ve realized that either God’s not who he says he is, and he really isn’t in the business of healing, or he is and you just never got the message that there’s something for God to do…. and there’s something for you to do, too.

You see, we can wish and pray away our desires for healing, for change, for wholeness, while the rest of the world, so it seems, is getting healed, experiencing the hallelujah, walking in Shalom, while you’re off in your room feeling jipped, wondering where your burning bush is, only to realize you’ve been wondering around in the Sahara and there’s no shrubbery in sight. Just you. And God. ((And plenty of sand)).

Why doesn’t God just wave a magic God wand over us and fix us?
That might be nice, and a heck of a lot easier. But it wouldn’t allow us to experience faith.

Not the “if you just believe hard enough, sincerely enough, and pray long enough, you’ll get healed” faith.

But the kind of faith that has to go through something; go through a journey. Because if all we had to do was pray some prayer and our problems would absolve, that wouldn’t really be faith, right? It would be magic.

Why hasn’t God healed you yet?
Because he has a journey to take you through.
Yes, He wants to go on a journey with you.

Will you go?
Will you sign yourself up?

It’s not an easy one, but it’s worth the risk; it’s worth the pain; it’s worth the discomfort.

Perhaps it might look something like this:

First, you might come out from under the covers and ask the God of Light to come walk you through this darkness.

Then it might look like digging back into your past and uncovering the broken pieces that look really scary. I know the edges look sharp, but go on, see what’s really there. You might discover too that, “the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

Because somewhere on your journey, you might uncover all the parts of yourself that you don’t want to see: the part of you that stuffs your emotions, that doesn’t voice your questions, that’s looked the other way for so long because the second you stare at reality face-to-face, your eyes well up with tears of shame. Hang in there. Ask for forgiveness. Not just from God. But from others. Not just from others, but from yourself. And give yourself some grace.

Somewhere on your journey, you might find yourself outstretched on the floor, pen in hand, journaling, and feel a sense of depravity come over you as you are reminded once again that we can’t do life alone. We need humans. And human relationships are messy and vulnerable. Again. Throw on some grace, (wo)man.

Somewhere on your journey, you might cry. Not just those couple of stray tears that sometimes leak when you yawn real wide, but the kind that are guttural, coming from the soul, not holding anything back as you lament into the comfort of Christ’s arms. You might cry in front of people, too. Or in a counseling office. Or in public, on a day when some slight thing brings back a memory, and suddenly you realize you’re in a long line at some store or in some office and people are staring at you and that’s ok; they don’t understand yet because they haven’t tried to explore the deep seas of their insides yet. And when they do, they’ll wish that the people around them weren’t staring, but instead, respected your moment, perhaps showing just a little extra kindness, like holding the door open for you on your way out.

Somewhere on your journey, you might laugh. Seriously. You might be on the phone with that awesome friend, spilling your guts to him or her, and it might occur to you in hindsight how ridiculous something you did actually was, or laugh at the dumb things that used to upset you, or make some joke at your serious circumstance, somehow capable of finding laughter in an otherwise stir-crazy, disheartening, painful situation.

You might sing. Whether it’s something worship-y, like singing “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” at Church one Sunday, grateful for the dimmed lights because the whole time your soul is unfettered in the hands of Christ, moved, free, tears collecting in the corners of your eyes, confident that no matter how rough it gets, you’ll still be there, standing, and so will your Maker. Or maybe you’ll sing “(Wo)Man In The Mirror,” rolling the car windows down, looking at the guy on your left while idled at a red light, and sing out with a hearty key change, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change. You gotta get it right, while you got the time ’cause when you close your heart then you close your mind!”

So there’s some looking back to move forward, there’s divulging all the secret parts that you’d rather leave in their caverns, unexplored. There’s some two steps backwards. There’s some trying again. There’s some rewinding. There’s some tears. There’s some prayers. There’s facing some fears.

But without a doubt, if we take the necessary steps to stare at our hurts, our pains, all without running away… if we poke around at what it was really like growing up in our families of origin, to confess a burning secret to someone you’ve never told, to reach out to that distant person you love so much but don’t even know where to start because it’s been such a broken journey… if we do this dirty work instead of hiding behind our paltry prayers, we will, indeed, experience the great healing of our God and echo along with Joel, that we also know God will be true to his word when he says,

“I will restore the years the locusts have taken.”

Amen.
Allelujah.
We’ve made out better than a Genie.
We’ve experienced Shalom.

Credit: Sarah Bessey, pinterest

Credit: Sarah Bessey, pinterest

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Thoughts on Change

6.28.11

I recently moved to inner city Baltimore and moving day spurred up some emotions within me about change. This is a little snapshot of what I feel like God is teaching me about change.

•••

I’ve often heard that God is unchanging. Which is a good thing. But I’ve come to believe that while this is true, we also serve a God who knows change. No one stays in a flood when there’s an ark to carry you. No one stays in exile when you’ve got your God calling you out of slavery. No one stays a baby, born in a stable…

Take a look outside. Flowers need pruning. Rain needs to come to water gardens, fill oceans, and satisfy thirst to every living creature. All things must change, all things must grow. Our Savior knew that. Our Savior did not stop changing culture through radical love of all people -even the love of enemies- despite questioning commentary from the people around him. He didn’t stop touching Lepers, who would never have otherwise experienced the uplifting gift of touch just because of pointed-finger rule keepers. In fact, Jesus came to bring about change, despite the opposition he faced. When his days were closing in, Our Savior did not give up in the garden of Gethsemane. Our Savior did not stop when people mocked him and spat on him. No public dismay, nor disapproval, nor pain would change his plans nor thwart him. He pressed on; he moved forward. Though doom and death faced him, Sunday came, and a new beginning arose. None of this would have happened; the climax of the story would have occurred had our Savior not pursued the plans and dreams God had put on his heart. And if Jesus, the redeemer of the world, can go through change- pretty drastic change-, then so can I, then so can we.

Change is like a double-edged sword: I don’t like it, but it’s the very thing that moves me, that escalates me, that God uses to grow me. When it comes to that impelling moment of impending change, God reminds me it’s time. It’s time to move. It’s time to move forward. It’s time to know that the days ahead are going to come, regardless of whether I resist them or embrace them.

It’s not easy. Change is never easy. Maybe because most change isn’t meant to be about ease or convenience; change is meant to be about growth. Change is looking on the other side of the mountain, up high, from the top, knowing you would have never seen this incredible view had you stayed where you were, had you never began your climb. Change is GOOD. Change elevates us. Without change, we become trapped. Trapped to our surroundings, trapped to familiarity. We don’t grow; we become stagnant, stuck, indifferent.

Are there changes going on in your life? Could it be time to make a change? No matter how big or small, Jesus is present. If it’s not time for change, are you staying in your circumstance out of fear? Out of comfort, out of familiarity? Jesus can carry you to the next destination. Let change move you. Let change grow you. Be a part of what God is doing and don’t resist it. Throw your hands up in the air if you have to, and say, “God, I don’t get it.” Tell Him and tell Him and tell Him over and over again if you have to; but know that this doesn’t change who He is and what He can do with an open and willing heart. Be open. Be willing. Be present.

                                                  Forget about what’s happened;
                                                don’t keep going over old history.
                                                         Be alert, be present.
                                            I’m about to do something brand-new.
                                              It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?”

                                     -Isaiah 43:16-21 (excerpt) –The Message