Recently, I talked with a friend of mine, Scott Rose, who has been involved in social work for a lifetime. He helped me understand a story in the gospels about a man who was paralyzed. As the story goes, his friends bring him to a house where Jesus is preaching so that he can be healed. But the house is jam-packed and they can’t get the stretcher on which he lay in through the crowd. So they go up on the roof, take tiles out of the roof, and lower him down in front of Jesus who promptly proceeds to heal him from his paralysis.
Many of us wish we could heal our friend. From drinking, from depression, from an abusive relationship, from poverty – many are the ills we see in those we love. This story is instructive for how to approach getting help for our loved ones. Let me summarize:
- I can’t heal my friend. If it’s a diet program, a self-improvement class, or a seminar on financial management they need, maybe we can give them the magic pill in the form of a referral or link to the information they need. But more often than not, the ailment is something much more chronic, insidious, uncontrollable, and ingrained. Our best efforts avail nothing, no matter how hard we try. Repeated advice-giving is in vain. As much as we love them, we cannot bring about the change they need.
- But I can do something. The friends of the paralytic could not heal but they were not without a plan. They knew where healing took place and through whom or what. When we admit that not only does our friend need help but we need help too if we’re going to help them, wise courses of action can be hatched.
- Getting my friend to a place of healing might take a lot of work. In their efforts, the friends came upon a major barrier: how to get their paralyzed friend to the healer. Crowds surrounded the healer. Everyone else wanted to get near him and had no patience for their cumbersome stretcher. They could have given up in defeat but because of their love for their friend, they found alternatives; they persisted and got creative. They were to be commended for being so committed to their friend that they would do anything to get him into the space where healing took place. That’s all they could do but they did it with all they had.
- Upon arrival, I have to let go. Once they got their friend to Jesus, they still could not heal him. They couldn’t make the healing happen, they couldn’t demand the healing, coerce it, or even bank on it. They had to trust the process. As hard as they worked to get him into the space of healing, they had to let go of control. Maybe this was harder than getting him through the roof! It’s hard to let go when you love someone dearly. But let go they did. And he was healed.
If someone you love needs healing, take heart. Nothing you do can guarantee his/her healing but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. If we stop trying to heal and entrust them to a process of healing, a positive outcome is much more likely. Offering to pay for a counselor, introducing them to a friend they can relate to, sharing the darkest point of your own journey, or inviting them into a community you trust – any of these can constitute the hard work of taking them to a place of healing. And once there, we let a higher power do the healing.