“The greatest of all illusions is the illusion of familiarity.” G.K. Chesterton[i]
When I was in the ministry, I got to know a retired Methodist pastor named Edgar who was a spiritual healer. I’d visit with him at his house, from time to time, to talk about prayer and his understanding of healing. Edgar had strong beliefs about the subject, and about his religion in general. He rankled people at churches he served by refusing to open committee meetings with prayers. That kind of icebreaker was an insult to prayer, in his mind, because prayer was a serious matter.
He told me a story about calling on a woman in the hospital. She had a chronic skin condition that doctors couldn’t cure. After visiting with her, Edgar and the woman prayed together. The next day, to everyone’s consternation, the skin disease had disappeared. The hospital, however, found the episode very suspicious and told Edgar he was no longer welcome to visit. Apparently, he was practicing medicine without a license.
This woman was merely one example of numerous times that Edgar facilitated someone’s healing. He possessed a gift, which he cultivated in his life. I’ve known others with similar gifts. But, as the hospital’s response made clear, the gift is no longer respected as genuine, running counter to our scientific mindset and medical system. As a result, by ignoring what we can’t explain, spiritual healing is alien to our everyday world, leaving us blind to its possibilities.
One Sunday, after a sermon in which I mentioned unexplainable events in our lives, a woman approached me when worship was over. Pulling me aside, she said, “There’s something I’ve never told anyone. My grandfather died in a fire, and I’ve always felt terrible that he had to die that way. Whenever I thought of him, that’s all I thought about. Well, a couple years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw my grandfather at the foot of my bed. It was him. He said, ‘Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.’ Then he touched my toe and left. I felt him touch my toe. It really helped me let go of my feelings, but I was always afraid to say anything. You know how people are.”
I have never seen a spirit, but I have talked with people who do, sometimes on a recurring basis. It’s an aspect of reality to which I am blind, but being foreign to my experience does not mean it is false. We’ll never know all that we don’t know, requiring us to make allowance for unexplainable things. Denying the possibility is to avoid a genuine aspect of life, since the unexplainable happens to everyone.
In my first church, one of the members had a serious heart attack. Jack was a middle-aged man who worked at a local state prison. When I found him in the hospital, he was laying unconscious in bed, in a coma, from which the doctors weren’t sure he would awaken. I visited him several times, praying for him as he slept. Finally, after about a week, I got word that he regained consciousness. The next time I saw Jack, he was sitting up in bed, smiling, and wanted to thank me. He’d heard my voice in his coma, calling him back, and its what he followed to the land of the living.
There was nothing special about my prayers, but I also know that prayer can have effects beyond what I imagine. Healing occurs in many different ways, the Spirit moves as it will, and faith doesn’t require an explanation.
When we stop trying to make sense of everything, we become open to a life of spirituality. We become more attuned to what is beyond the sensible, to experiencing what can’t be known.
[i] Chesterton, G.K. The Everlasting Man. Rough Draft Printing. Seaside, Oregon. 2013. Page 98.
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