I fear not.
Within the course of a summer week, my wife and I binge-watched a season of 24. As you probably recall from that now ancient TV series, each episode represented one “real time” hour. The actions begin and conclude during a single frenzied, fractious day (which takes twenty-four shows to resolve).
In order to keep the plot’s velocity at breakneck speed, there was a dump truck’s load of unbelievable scenes. An example? Two different characters shot themselves to cover their duplicity with the bad guys. Apparently, in the fictional world of caffeinated thrillers, a bad guy’s so-called friends won’t suspect deceitful actions if he’s bleeding after the firefight.
No worries, it’s only a flesh wound. On to the next adventure!
Remember, everything unfolds in a day. On 24, the digital clock sprints toward the next second. In both cases (one a shot to the side where the “love handles” are located and the other a blast at a beefy bicep) the bad boys grimaced, cowboyed-up, and within a couple of episodes were dashing hither and yon with abandon. They made Santa’s Christmas Eve coverage seem wimpy.
Talk about healing! I get a bruise and I’m done for the day. Darn that hangnail . . . better not mow the lawn! On 24, it you have a bullet in your body? Man up! Woman up! Shrug it off.
Healing, of course, was one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry. In some cases, the Gospels recount the healing of specific individuals like the Gerasene demoniac. Elsewhere, such as Mark’s sixth chapter, Jesus’ curative touch will be experienced by hordes. The crowds “bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.”
As a rational adult, I know the self-inflicted wounds on 24 are silly plot devices. A bullet devastates. But for the tough-as-nails fictional heroes—the Jack Bauers, Jason Bournes, James Bonds, and anyone else with the initials JB I’ve forgotten—a hunk of metal fired at a thousand feet per second into soft flesh rarely slows them down. A limp, a muttered curse, and they’re back in the “saddle.” Sometimes, one commercial break suffices for a return to wholeness.
As a believing and rational Christian, I wonder about the Gospel’s healing stories. Back then leprosy was a catchall word for a wide range of skin diseases. Some serious, some not. Demon possession was also an acceptable interpretation for ailments that today’s doctors would deem as the spiritual malaise or physical infirmity within an individual . . . rather than an attack from external evil forces. Even more persuasive for me was that Jesus wasn’t the only healer or miracle worker in the Biblical era. Healings, authentic or fake, were part of the lore of the ancient world.
Still, healing matters.
One of the central stories of my life—and my faith—occurred after breaking multiple bones in my left leg. While on a backpack with church youth, I scooted down a ridge that held late summer snow near our campsite. The first forty-nine feet were thrilling! Smacking into a rock outcropping at the approximate fiftieth foot was not. I was eventually helicoptered to a hospital.
Even with prayers, excellent doctors, and modern medicine, healing took a long time. And yet the most important healing had nothing to do with shattered limbs. My boy-meets-granite encounter occurred while I continued beating myself up over a divorce. I had cleverly ignored emotionally and spiritually healing from the mistakes I’d made and the hurt inflicted on me. Literal broken bones finally slowed my freight train of guilt and avoidance.
I’ll always remember the healing touch of a church member. She spoke to me after the first worship service I attended following the accident. I staggered about on crutches, moaning and complaining more than Jack Bauer (or the other JBs) ever did.
“Enjoy this,” she whispered as she touched my arm. “When I broke a bone, it was one of the best times of my life. I had a chance to remember what was important.”
Enjoy a broken bone? Enjoy helplessness and dependence on others? Give me a break, lady!
But what do I know? Christ appeared in the form of a woman with gray hair, a gentle touch, and honest words. I used my healing time well. Instead of ignoring the lingering anguish of my divorce, disguising it with more and more work, I claimed a chance to pray. To listen. To embrace others and realize I needed their help and encouragement.
Perhaps some healing is instant. And I do “trust” the Gospel accounts more than the nasty villains and bullet-resistant heroes of 24! But some of the best healing takes time. All these decades later, I still have the scars from the repairs made on the leg. They mark a foolish plunge down a mountain.
Even more they remind me I finally took time to acknowledge the brokenness of my spirit and to let Holy healing begin.
Image at top: “Christ Healing a Patient” – Mathieu Ignace van Bree (Belgian painter, 1773-1839)
Other image . . . well, someone was shot on 24 and is soon to be healed?