Praying through our pain
A Reflection for the Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
“When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand,
and the little girl arose.”
When you’ve been through five years of pain, the idea that Jesus just went around curing people like it was nothing in Biblical times brings up a lot of feelings. Gee, if Jesus could literally raise the dead, it would be super cool if he could just fix my little shoulder problem (for example).
Like the risen girl in today’s Gospel, I have had Catholic priests and a few evangelical Christians (but never Jesus himself) offer to lay their hands on me to pray for my healing. In an attempt to be polite, I have accepted.
Instead of rising from my suffering at the end, I’ve often felt worse. I’ve felt like a disappointment. I’ve felt my cheeks burn with the shame that comes with that familiar look of pity. I worry that I will have shaken someone else’s faith by not being healed. I don’t know why my stubborn body refuses to be healed through miraculous intervention either. I usually just give them an awkward “thanks” and a “sorry.”
But one time was different. The last time a priest laid hands on me, I spent the first few minutes of his prayer trying to shrink inside myself. I knew it wasn’t going to work (oh ye of little faith, I know, I know) but I also knew his intentions were very good. He asked me to look at the crucifix above the altar as he prayed. I saw my God looking down upon me, bathed in refracted rainbows of light coming through the stained glass windows of the otherwise unlit church. So when Father asked me if my pain had decreased at all throughout his prayer, I looked in Jesus’ eyes on the crucifix and knew that I could not lie. “No,” I told him. He continued to pray.
“The things you mentioned are the gifts God has given you to help you in your suffering. God is still with you.”
The third time he asked, panic began to set in. I could feel the weight of this man’s faith pressing down on me and prayed to feel inspired rather than suffocated. I always hated this part. I would disappoint him. I wasn’t any better. By now, I couldn’t look him in the eye, so I kept my gaze fixed on the cross. I prayed for a better answer than “it still hurts.”
I pushed away the pain—something I’ve gotten quite good at over the years—and searched within myself for some other sense of feeling. A long silence passed before I could answer.
“I feel… cared for.” I started. “I feel… lucky to have people in my life who support me when I am hurting. I feel… like I’m going to be okay.”
“It still hurts?” he asked. I nodded, finally meeting his eyes. There was no disappointment, only kindness within them.
“That’s okay.” Relief washed over me.
“The things you mentioned are the gifts God has given you to help you in your suffering,” he told me. “God is still with you.”
I smiled. “I know.”