I am before you in a body that is broken. A.L.S. is a cruel disease. 12 years ago I was a healthy man who played with his children, a man who hugged and cuddled with his wife Suzanne. 12 years ago I liked to cook, I could do chores, I loved to sing in choir, and I especially loved playing my many instruments.
Now my arms, hands, tongue and vocal cords are almost completely paralyzed, my legs are weak, and I am dependent on a machine to breath while I sleep. I must take all my food and water through a tube in my stomach.
While I may be physically and visibly broken, we all experience brokenness. We have lost loved ones, we have illnesses. We are stressed, overcommitted and unfocused. We suffer with depression, with financial trouble, job loss, and academic trouble. We have broken relationships, broken promises, and broken pride.
We come here a broken people, hoping and maybe even praying, that we will be fixed, that our problems will be taken away. We want to be cured. For myself, I long for a cure, or even a possibility that I won’t get worse.
Yet in Lent God calls us to join with Jesus in His crucifixion. This is such a hard teaching. With everything else we have to deal with, how can we add the horror of the cross to our life? After all, we know what the cross means, suffering and humiliation beyond imagination. In the words of the Psalmist,
Psalm 22 15:18
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.
Cure vs. Heal
What I too often forget, what we too often forget, is that there is a difference between being cured and being healed. If I am cured, my physical brokenness goes away and I go back to my prior life. I would be changed and I would be incredibly thankful for restoration of all I have lost. At least for whatever time I have until human mortality catches up to me in some other way.
I believe that God smiles whenever one of God’s children is cured, rejoicing with us as one is fixed from the brokenness of the day. A cure brings us back into a normal life as defined by us humans. But the world is a broken place, and we will undoubtedly become broken again. Until death, a cure is temporary, a thing of this world.
Healing, on the other hand, is a gift freely given by God and available at any time we need it. Being healed means that Christ has put to death the things that keep us from Him. Healing is being liberated from fear, from pride, expectations and unhealthy wants and desires. When we are healed by Christ, we have the strength to rise above our brokenness, to overcome every barrier in life that keeps us away from being the person God wants us to be.
When we unite with Christ on the cross we feel the depth of suffering Jesus accepted on our behalf. Jesus gathers us in, holds us, and comforts us. He takes us through every brokenness, sheltering us by sacrificing His own body. If we can dare to cling to Christ in his suffering, He will renew in His resurrection us and take us beyond our broken life to a life of eternal promise.
Romans 6: 3-9
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
So often we think of God’s promises in terms of eternal life, but living with Christ Resurrected means healing in this life too. I am before you in a broken body, but a healed heart. I ask you not to pity my condition because I am here to tell you that I am happier now than I was before A.L.S. My life isn’t easy, for I am dependent on others for most of my needs, and I grieve for the life this disease has given to Suzanne and my children. But I live most days with a sense of wonder, thanks and joy at all God’s riches in my life.