“Wholeness and purpose do not happen in a vacuum— to be fully healed is to be reintegrated into community." Aric Clark
Don was the first District Superintendent I worked with when I began the United Methodist ordination process in 1994 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a seasoned, well-formed Christ follower and avid basketball fan. March madness was a holy time for him. He was unabashedly enthusiastic about Jesus and basketball. As a retired pastor, Don was appointed to become the temporary senior pastor of the parish I served as Director of Christian Education and Youth. He mentored me into the candidacy process and I learned more from him about parish ministry than I could ever include in this blog.
"I'm leaving for Germany!" He said one morning with his usual buoyancy. I figured he and his wife were finally taking their dream vacation on a Viking Cruise. But, as I listened, he shared a great story of courage and reconciliation. Don grew up in West Texas, became a pilot and served our country during World War II. He and a bunch of his friends all flew air raids over Germany. He recalled the exhilaration and terror he felt as his squadron ran bombing raids in the midst of serious dogfights. His countenance fell as he named several of his West Texas buddies that didn't make it home.
Don and several of his pilot-friends planned to travel to Germany to walk the land where their bombs landed decades earlier. His somber mood intensified as he spoke about the seriousness of his decision. It was different seeing the world from the pilot's seat. He could remain physically, spiritually and emotionally detached from what happened during the war or he could do the hard work of connecting with his past actions. He chose to do the hard work.
Our relationship with Jesus doesn’t change our outer circumstances. We still have our past. Our story includes wounds and scars. Jesus cannot miraculously erase parts of our story. But, he can change us. He calls us into a new creative way of being, seeing, acting, speaking, thinking. The resurrected Jesus still had wounds. They didn't go away but the wounds took on new meaning. When we take responsibility to stand and rise into the resurrection life, we can discover we have somehow miraculously transformed. Sometimes incredulously words fail us and we are engulfed by an overwhelming sense of greater purpose. Healing can take place.
Healing doesn’t necessarily make life easy or mean we no longer have to deal with the circumstances of life. Healing can redefine our circumstances. Maybe the circumstances and situations become more manageable as we engage them from a place of grace and forgiveness. We are no longer imprisoned but set free. What better news could there possibly be?
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. John 5:8-9 NIV