Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ailment as identity

Saturday night was another backyard BBQ at the Sanford’s, which will probably be the last as weather is getting cooler. It was Manuel’s birthday, but it wasn’t a big bash as he was driving to Mexico early in the morning. So only a handful of Sandford party regulars were there including my family and I.

Frieda’s close friend Gloria the Drunk Driver is one of the regulars. Gloria’s son Miguel was there, who I’ve heard a lot about but never met until now.

I have heard people refer to themselves as a “crazy-magnet”, as in: every crazy person they run across is attracted to them. I guess I’m kind of a crazy magnet too. And I don’t mind. But I’m more of a messed-up/desperate person magnet.

Miguel clung to me like Limbaugh on pain meds. He’s 40, lives with his mom the Drunk Driver, spent seven years in prison, and claims to have a real bad knee which keeps him from working the manual labor jobs he once knew well. He rambled on and on about his knee, especially after he asked me what I “did”, and I told him tree trimming.

This is what destroys me and makes me wonder if I’m not following the great commission: I believe in healing.

I really do. I believe as a Christ follower I am supposed to heal people. I am not a charismatic nut or a Benny Hinn fan. I don’t believe in big shows or slapping people in the forehead and making them fall or whatever.

But I do believe in healing folks. Whatever that means. Pray with/for them right then and there for a miracle, I guess.

This belief is partially because I myself am a product of the CEO’s healing power. I was diagnosed a depressive in the early ‘90s. After faith and much prayer I have been healed and off meds since October 1995.

When people like Miguel give me an ear full of medical woes, in a non-threatening way I try to ask something like, “do you wish this problem could be fixed forever?” And I mean this in a way to spur imagination. Like, hey – what would your life be like with out this ailment or whatever?

And amazingly enough, no one can ever answer this question. They dodge my inquiry and go on and on as if any kind of cure or healing is not an option.


To most people in our western culture, having some sort of physical ailment is their identity. It’s who they are. And they get kind of pissed if you suggest that their identity could be erased and they could become someone else.

I don’t understand how people flocked in masses to be healed by Jesus. Or how the shadow of the disciples could pass over ill and make them well.

Jesus must have started somewhere. Maybe it was being a consistent listening ear to the ills of others.

There must be a better tactic to my “ailment cure” inquiry. I can’t imagine people not dreaming of life without an injury or illness when they occur.


mike said...

maybe that is why in the stories jesus asked people if they wanted to be healed?

i know that i want to be healed. i know that it would be quite an adjustment. i think some of my personality would change. i am sure i would be less grumpy. back pain makes you a little crazy. but i would love to have back those younger days when nothing ever hurt.

i know if you asked me that question and i didn't know you a little i might wonder what the hell you were talking about. i mean, what are you going to do? are you a doctor? so maybe it is skepticism about you. that sounded mean but that wasn't the intention. i think you get my meaning however.

Agent B said...

Mike - hey, long time no comment. Ha. Or long time no comment from anybody. I don't think anyone reads this anymore. Like I'm talking to myself, which I do well in real life.

I get your meaning well.

Really, it's hard for me to word it hear, but I try to ask the question in a "what would life be like" kind of way. Not in a "I have something up my sleeve" kind of way. But, I guess I do have something up my sleeve.

Make sense?

carl said...

I think there are a whole slew of reasons why people are complacent and lack hope for healing.

I am no fan of Benny Hinn either though I do sense genuine stuff going on there. The relational one on one prayer of healing that you're talking about would produce more, long lasting spiritual fruit than Mr. Hinn's method.

... I have thought similar thoughts about people in need of healing that I know.

Agent B said...

Right Carl. Slew of reasons.

And yeah, I'm sure there's real healing going on with Hinn and co. But those trinkets he peddles on TBN for $34.95...just kind of takes the credibility out of him, I guess.

mike said...

so good ole' jesus uses benny hinn huh. (caveat: only a little though)


Agent B said...

I have no evidence of the benny hinn thing.

But I figure, if the CEO can use an ass like Balaam's, or an ass like me, then benny can't be too far behind.

Talitha koum said...

I see the ailment identity all too often in my profession. You are both perceptive and intuitively gifted to pick up on this. My apologies for few comments of late. It has been much harder to be on line much-(new gig=TIME consumption.
I believe so much pain is directly linked to hope deferred. Even the hope of true healing and freedom from illness. It is like the lottery even for the strong of heart. We only heard of a handful of healing of personal account in the bible. There were masses who were not healed. Maybe it is hard to believe after tangiable suffering. Even a tribal connection to other sufferers might make life more bearable.
Thanks for your continued post- even when I do not respond- I am listening and thinking on what you share.

JesusFreak said...

Many people identify themselves in their "victimhood" It's something that has been with them for so long that it's like their old, worn-out, scratchy blanket. It also gives them an out when things get too scary or too real. Just like that guy who can't work because of his injury. I can guarantee that he could work at McDonalds if he really wanted to (heck, they better than manual labor jobs nowadays).

I've also been healed of depression. I had it for 12 years and attempted suicide several times, beginning when I was 12. The actual method of healing doesn't matter, it's the faith and conviction the healer has. It's fully knowing that God heals and wants to heal anyone who is hurting. No one laid hands on me, splashed me with holy water, or knocked me down. It was a quiet prayer for me to see myself the way God sees me; for me to know in my heart that my depression was just a stronghold that I had allowed the enemy to put on me. It was simple.

Agent B said...

TK -

I was hoping you would weigh in on this, being a nurse practitioner and all.

No worries with the lack of comments. The blog-o-world has seem to go though a dead spell these last 2 months. It's hard to find conversations anywhere. Thanks for your friendship.

There may be few recorded miracle healings. But the commission is: heal the sick (and raise the dead!).

So, regardless of how few examples there are, maybe we neeed to have faith (?), explore this, and figure it out together...

Agent B said...

Jesusfreak: you are exactly right. ID as victim...

"Woa is me: I am a victim. That is who I am"

Identity is very personal, fragile, and extremely important to us all. I am a musician. And I haven't been much of a musician for about 5 years which really hurts because that's my ID. And if some guy came up to me and said, "you're not a musician. You're just some jackass hobby-ist who noodles around on some instrument"...well, that would suck.

When people wrap there every minute identity laden fiber around some ailment...


Maybe showing people that this ailment is a false ID is the first step in their healing.

Of course...showing them this GENTLY...

mike said...

what if... and i am going out on a limb here... what if god doesn't want to heal them? (gasp!) and if i can venture into even more blasphemous thought... what if disease is a natural part of all of life and the healings were just a part of the large mythology of early christianity? apocolyptic longing and what not.

if someone suggested that my wrecked back isn't getting better because i don't have enough faith or i don't want to be healed i would knock them on their ass. i have a wrecked back because i was born with certain hereditary traits and when i was younger i did things that made that worse. it has nothing to do with faith or jesus or god, it is simple biology.

wouldn't the christian approach to be to offer folks kindness and lend them a hand to make the suffering less?

Agent B said...


Mythology? I assume that means...the healings were all stories? Some may believe that, but not me.

Hereditary: oh yeah. I believe that. My depression came from my mom's side. Grandma died a suicidal alcoholic, etc.

And yes, we should aid people's suffering. But if they want healing, should we not try our best to offer it? Even if they don't get healed for months/years?

And I don't know why some people get healed and some suffer forever. But there's something in that persistent widow story, I think.

Please don't take this response as self-righteous ranting. I don't hope to be that way. I don't know the answers much.

mike said...

yes, by mythology that is exactly what i meant.

i think i am also more than a little put off by a comment above by jF that "Just like that guy who can't work because of his injury. I can guarantee that he could work at McDonalds if he really wanted to (heck, they better than manual labor jobs nowadays)."

i mean, fuck dude. that is some cold shit. first, i worked at McDonalds and it is hard fucking work, esp if you are hurt. second, if you are injured on the job and you keep working most of the time your insurance won't help you much because they figure if you are working your injury must not be real. which is bullshit. finally, what a fucking dumb ass thing to say. i mean, who the fuck... oh yeah, that is right, people who are poor or injured and don't work are all just lazy bums who don't want to be healed and are just milking the system. i forgot.

fuck dude.

real merciful and gracious thinking for a "jesus freak."

makes me want to kneel down and accept jesus as my savior.

Lainie Petersen said...

Provocative post, Agent B.

I think that for many people with a chronic illness or disability, their suffering becomes easier to manage if they can "own it" in some way. This is particularly true if the individual has an "invisible" disability, and is perhaps judged harshly by others who do not understand the nature and extent of the disability. The disability becomes a defense against the criticism, and eventually becomes part of the individual's identity.

As to why some people can't seem to imagine a life without a disability, I'd suggest that it is also hard for many of us to imagine a life in which there is no sin. That is why Jesus's teachings are so hard for so many people. Even though they are "good news", we just can't allow ourselves to hope that things could be different.

Agent B said...


Excellent point about "own it". Eye opening for me. Thanks.

So, do the words of James and all biblical teaching on the "power of our words" come into play here?

(going out on a huge limb here)

If our ailment is our ID, and we (like the guy "miguel" in this story) constantly reinforce our identity by talking of its ills...

Are we making it difficult or impossible to be healed if we make this ailment our ID?

And all:

I do not wish for this topic or my inquiries to criticize or insult those of us with serious lifelong diseases or ailments. I take your input with great respect.

Lainie Petersen said...

Agent B:

I believe that you are being respectful and I appreciate the nature of your question.

I think that for many people with a disability (including myself) actually getting a real diagnosis was often the first step in healing. If we could name what was harming us, we could let go of the other false explanations. We could refute the insistence of many people that character defects caused our symptoms, rather than a real disorder.

The trouble is that once someone has a name for what hurts them, it becomes easy to cling to it. If someone has suffered much of their life from a disability that is not always apparent to others, the label may be the only thing that makes them feel like they have a right to be human. Asking them to give that up is asking them to take a huge risk. It may even feel like they are undoing the healing that came from knowing what ails them.

I myself try hard to separate my identity in Christ from my Asperger's Syndrome. It isn't easy, and I frequently pray that God will enable me to operate beyond the boundries of my real limitations.

Complete healing? Yes, I'd love that. It would be a challenge in its own right, but I also believe that I could meet that challenge.

carl said...

was the trinket a benny hinn bobblehead? :)

Beth said...

Sometimes in situations like this, on the rare occasions when I overcome my cowardice, I ask, "Have you ever had it prayed for?" Usually people say "not really" or "what do you mean?" altho they are also perfectly free to say "nah I don't believe in that crap." Of course maybe the associations with such a question are less loaded in New England than in Texas....

JesusFreak said...

For the record, I have worked at McDonalds. I know what it's like to work there. It was one of the two jobs I had when I was going to college and taking care of my kids.

Now, I wasn't saying being healed is directly related to the amount of faith or prayers someone has or does. I can't explain why some people are healed, and some aren't. I can't explain why I was healed of depression while my friend's son, who has extensive brain damage from dying then being revived when he was six weeks old, has not been healed. I was just expressing my own PERSONAL beliefs and convictions. Why hold Jesus personally responsible for what another says? And why get so offended?

mike said...

if one calls themself "jesus freak" i don't see why i wouldn't hold jesus responsible for his spokes person.

i wasn't "offended" that word has no meaning any more. i was "put off" because of your insensitivity and ignorance. it pissed me off to read what you wrote beause it was ignorant, ingracious and lacking mercy you christians claim to be all about.

JesusFreak said...

I think you meant "ungracious" Sorry, I get kinda OCD on stuff like that. It really helps out with my job though. :)

mike said...

you aren't sorry. you were getting in the last word. nice jesus.

JesusFreak said...

Oh, you mean just like you did?

And, I'm not Jesus. I'm just a freak about Him. Hence the name...

mike said...

yep. but the difference is that i freely admit i am a dick. i don't claim to be a freak about jesus.

and when i said nice jesus i wasn't saying you were jesus, i was talking to your lord and savior about you.

nice. i am a freak about jesus but that doesn't mean i or my actions represent him. that is a nice little get out of jail free card.

Ashlee said...

I haven't read for a while, so I do realize I'm a little late in the game on this post.

My husband was healed of a kidney disease in 2001. Before that point he had severe kidney infections constantly and was basically told to prepare for eventual kidney failure, dialysis, possibly death within a decade or so. At that time I was a student in a school of ministry at a large charismatic church in Abilene and there was an apostle there who stopped in the middle of his talk and said, "Someone here is having kidney troubles and they've told you to expect the worst." So, my husband went up and the man (Alan Vincent for the record) prayed for him. Since that day my husband has had 1 kidney infection (and that one was not a big deal by any means). His bloodwork is that of a "normal" person and there is no sign that he ever had the original condition.

Now, comes the complicated part. So, obviously we have faith for healing. BUT, it simply doesn't always generally doesn't happen. We have a house of prayer that meets at our home as well as life groups that meet at our home (right now, this is our church) and we constantly offer prayer -- MANY times we pray for healings. The randomness at which people experience healings is excrutiatingly painful, yet I know we CAN'T stop praying for people to be miraculously healed.

On the other hand, I recently went to a conference. At this conference were several ministers of the "glory" movement and I got a very negative impression at times. When it comes down to it, I do believe they are annointed ministers with the gift of healing but because many of them use these large conferences to fund their other ministries or passions they feel a real pressure to deliver miracles at every conference (even if God is instructing them to do something else). We watched one minister say he really felt God was telling him to speak on prophecy (which was a great message, actually) but not to worry, he would get to miracles... it felt like he was trying to appease the crowd....

One of our biggest passions to be genuine, build genuine relationships here in the city where God planted us...and honestly we've had more growth (in our house of prayer and life groups) then I would have thought possible in a month. I think when you are genuine people realize YOU can't produce anything and that you don't have the answers as to why God chooses to do what He chooses to do...

I think sometimes faith can be a factor, but not all the time. (I've seen God heal non-believers) I have many questions regarding healings, injustice, and suffering that I realize I will never be comfortable with any theological answer given to me here on earth. If I could understand everything my beliefs wouldn't require faith.