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What do you associate with the word, “healer?” I imagine some people think of doctors or surgeons as healers (although I found that most doctors don’t think of themselves in that way). Perhaps you think of those charismatic preachers on T.V. who heal by calling on God (or calling off the devil), striking the sick or lame on the forehead, who at once fall in the waiting arms of the healer’s assistants. Perhaps, as a Christian, your image is of Jesus with hands outstretched. Or maybe, you have no real image at all, but rather an awareness of a healing presence at work silently and invisibly, but ever so surely.
Of course, all of these images are true in one way or another. But we are much less likely to think of ourselves as healers. “What? Me, a healer? Yeah, right!” But it’s true. We, all of us, have the capacity to heal with our hands, our eyes, our ears, or simply our presence, whether we recognize it or not.
The word “heal” comes from the same root word as “whole.” Jim Miller in The Art of Being a Healing Presence writes that wholeness refers to something that is already present and available in some form, waiting to be awakened. Healing is any movement—any at all—toward that wholeness.
Healing, of course, is not necessarily the same as curing. We have all been around people who, even though they will never get physically well—who in fact may be dying—are nevertheless whole and healed in almost every other way. And, I suppose the reverse is true for some who appear physically well, but who suffer silently with some unnamed suffering.
In her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen writes how a patient once described a healer. The patient said that a healer is someone who can see your movement toward wholeness more clearly than you’re able to yourself at any given time. When you are sick, sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. The healer can see the forest. Healing presence is like that. It is being present with another in such a helpful and hopeful way that a small step toward healing (wholeness) is made possible because we can help them hope again. Actually, you can really do no more. The Great Healer does the rest.
All of us can be healers if we allow ourselves to be wholly present to others by offering a listening ear, an outstretched hand, or an encouraging word. In so doing we participate or share in Christ’s healing.
I am reminded of when (you probably heard this) Jack Kornfield, the Buddhist teacher, described a spiritual truth he learned at a bingo game he attended with his elderly parents. On the wall there was a sign in big letters, You Must Be Present to Win. As persons waiting to be healed or as potential healers, presence is key.
Be well and keep the faith,