“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15
I shook my head, lips tight in frustration, and stared through the wood to the pond beyond. “Why?” I blurted to my husband. “Why are there always two camps who can’t see the other side?”
My heart split down the middle, aching, yearning for my friends to know the truth I’d long since grabbed: healing was a paradox, neither guaranteed nor evasive. Stuck between two factions, I watched my friends battle for their lives, neither side willing to cede territory. Neither camp, it seemed, had theological or emotional space for the other.
One group could not abide the thought of suffering, of Jesus not healing. The other shuddered at the presumption of expecting healing to occur. I stood in the metaphorical middle. Batted between two extremes, my heart was the little white ball in a ping-pong match, but the stakes were cruelly high and the game to be won or lost was life itself.
I was a sideline sitter but I was not objective. One friend died while her friends applied Scripture like a band-aid, commanding healing. Another lived a tormented life while her praying friends would only listen and comfort, afraid of the audacious presumption that healing was available on more than a miraculous once-in-a-lifetime basis.
No stranger to healing, I’d seen major illnesses cured, injuries mended and splints thrown away. I’d also grieved at too-early funerals and ranted at God when chronic illnesses didn’t relent. I could live with any outcome, but I couldn’t live with arrogant resistance. The extremes threatened sanity and dignity and I could not fall off into either camp, but I couldn’t straddle the knife-edge in the middle, either.
The knife-edge. My husband told me about his teenage climbing adventures on the Knife Edge at Mt. Katahdin. Aptly named and just three feet wide for about three tenths of a mile, the high rocky ridge fell off into cliffs on both sides. One could only traverse this summit trail with three out of four hands and feet touching the ground. I couldn’t imagine climbing, or even crawling, that great divide. Yet here I was, balanced on just as precarious a middle point.
The charismatics couldn’t fathom that Jesus sits and grieves with us in our pain; but the evangelicals wouldn’t understand that Jesus often heals, and we participate in the process. My conflicted heart burst out in words. “What do I DO, God?”
“Be the answer,” Jesus whispered, nudging my intuition
But “Be the answer” meant “be uncomfortable.” “Be the answer” meant going against the grain no matter what camp I was in. It meant praying for healing – or commanding it, if that’s what the Lord showed me to do – in a most unwelcoming environment. It also meant suffering and weeping with the unhealed ones while their friends walked away, shaking their heads at our lack of faith. And worse yet, it meant watching and grieving as needy hurting Christians, expecting miracles of healing, had to walk out a process of learning emotional maturity instead of claiming victory.
No, this was not an answer I liked.
It was, however, the answer I got. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the two groups move closer. And change might or might not happen. However, it was the way the Lord walked between the timid and the presumptuous, the passive and the arrogant, the uninterested and the taunting. He was always in the middle. Why did I expect to rest comfortably in one camp?
And so I climbed back up on the knife-edge, imagining my two feet and one hand holding me steady, the other arm reaching up to Jesus, and both ears and one heart listening for His opportunities. Who knows what small prayer or comforting hug might bring change to one or the other of the battling armies? It was worth the effort, if even one warrior climbed up on the knife-edge to ask “is there another way?”
And you? Where are you on this mountain of change? Would you join a friend on the knife-edge, balancing in the middle?