At the time I wrote this, it had been a week. I know we say that a lot, but I challenge most people to have a wilder and more stressful one. Let’s just say it started with getting kicked out of our house due to remodeling and followed up with a dead body. Where does one go from there if that’s just the beginning? You can fill in the blanks.
Sunday, at the end of that week, I taught the story of the ten lepers in church. The one where ten are healed, and one comes back to Jesus to say thank you? I started to think about what it took for those ten to come to Jesus.
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”
When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. When he saw that he had been healed, one of them returned and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.” (Luke 17.11-19, CEB)
They had to leave their safe group of fellow “unclean” denizens outside the city gates. They walked toward the entrance to their village, a place they’d once been welcome but were no more. To approach the entrance as an unclean person took a lot of chutzpah. These men showed courage as they called to Jesus for mercy. They also showed that, despite likely knowing little about him, they knew Jesus was approachable, merciful, and powerful. Note they asked for mercy, not specific healing—I love that. They knew Jesus would consider both intertwined.
Mercy offers healing. They can’t be separated.
It took courage to leave their safe haven. It took courage to come near the gates. It took courage to call to Jesus. It took amazing courage not to be healed, yet turn to go see the priest as Jesus commanded. Somewhere on the road, they were healed—but not right away. Mercy arrived immediately, but healing came along the way. And they had the courage to wait for and believe in its appearance.
What does this have to do with my week? Well, this week, I watched as someone I love more than I love creme brûlée and key lime pie (and also to infinity and beyond) found that courage. She’d been traumatized, and horror can paralyze us easily. Trauma can make us forget to eat, terrorize our sleep, and put stress fractures in our relationships. It can make us crawl deep inside ourselves, closing off people and reality, and then worst of all, it can make that self unsafe, so we have nowhere to hide.
Calling out for help feels frightening. Approaching the gates, calling to be allowed in to health and companionship, is daunting. So to watch someone take those steps inspires awe in me. I know how hard that slog can be. It’s beautiful every single time. It takes courage to ask for healing.
For some people, that’s the work of making an appointment for an annual physical that you haven’t had in, well, not annually. (I highly recommend it—that’s how my PCP found my cancer quite early.) But you’re scared, and it’s hard, and you don’t know where to start. It takes courage.
For some, finding a therapist takes time and trial and error, and that in itself is a painful trek. It takes courage.
For others, it’s confronting family for the ways they’ve hurt you, or asking for forgiveness for the ways you’ve hurt them, which takes courage.
For some, it’s finding a new church, but you’ve been wounded so badly you’re afraid you’ll trail bloodstains on the altar, and you know that place might break you again beyond what you think is repair. It takes so much courage.
Healing is usually a process that happens along the way, not a miracle of a moment. To start the journey is scary. We’re not sure how it will end. We don’t know how long it will take. We fear we’ll find it ineffective or, worse, we’ll find we’re not worthy of being healed.
That’s why I love that they call first for mercy. Jesus sees them, he hears them, and he grants mercy immediately. When we have the courage to ask, the mercy of Christ is what first reaches our souls. The healing comes—but the mercy prepares us for the journey.
Courage, dear heart. There is light on the other side but there is also mercy on the way through.