In more physical pain than I’d ever experienced in 15 years of living, I thrashed around in the water. Between gasps, I called out for help. My friends and even the lifeguard thought I was playing, so they watched and laughed at my “antics.” I was on my own.
Inch by painful inch, I made my way to the edge of the pool. With a great deal of effort, I managed to get out, and then laid on the cement waiting for the throbbing in my lower back to subside enough for me to get up and go to my cabin.
Minutes earlier, I had decided to overcome my fear of the high dive. With wobbly legs, I climbed the steps and stood on the platform. Then I stood on the platform, and stood on the platform.
With an edge to his tone, the kid behind me said, “C’mon! You gonna stand there all day?”
It was my moment of truth. Was I going to back down and be teased for the rest of Bible camp? Or was I going to face my “giant” and jump?
I took a huge breath. Adrenaline coursed through my veins as I ran to the end of the board, jumped, and dove in – head first.
That’s where I messed up. I guess there’s a right and wrong angle from which to enter the water off a high dive. I was clueless. When I hit the water, I folded like a jack-knife – backward. Fire shot through my torso. With every painful breath, I choked on the water. With no one to assist me (they were still laughing), I thought I might drown.
That night I lay in bed hurt, angry, and confused. I began to pray:
God. I’m at Church camp, and tomorrow I have a vocal competition. I teach a Sunday School class, I pray to You, I read my Bible, I sing in the choir. Why did You let this happen to me? Did I do something wrong? Haven’t I been good enough? I don’t understand.
I confessed every sin I could think of, even made up a few just in case – yet, the agony continued.
For the next three years, it was hard to get around. While I sat at a desk, my back muscles became tense. The bell rang and I went to the next class hunched over. By the time I reached the next room, I could stand erect – only to go through the process again.
My pain tolerance level is off the charts. Consequently, I didn’t make much of a fuss about my injury. No doubt, my parents noticed the difficulty I had moving around, but the thought of a doctor visit or x-rays never occurred to them.
A little background information would be helpful at this point. From age 13 – 18, I attended one of the major denominational churches. To this congregation, anything that involved the Holy Spirit and was outside their box was suspect. I don’t think we ever even talked about Him. What I gathered from the preaching was that the Old Testament was for the Jews, Acts was for the disciples, and the rest of the New Testament was all that had any value to today’s Christian.
Imagine, then. I was 18 years old, married, and at a Bible study by my husband’s request – a full-blown Pentecostal group! No fooling, I thought I might be in danger of being demon possessed!
After the study, a little lady – about three days older than Moses – called me to one of the bedrooms.
“You have a back injury, and God wants to heal you. May I pray for you?”
What I’d already witnessed this woman doing in the name of “worship” had greatly alarmed me. The carrot she dangled before me – healing – was impossible to turn down, so I assented.
I could not tell you what she prayed, I vaguely recall the odd things she did to my body because the entire time she was at work, I said my own prayer:
Lord, This woman is flat nuts. I don’t know if this is really Your idea or not, but You said that all I need is a mustard seed of faith.
I held my hand like I had an actual seed between my finger and thumb.
I’m telling, You, that’s all the faith I have at the moment. See, it’s very tiny. But You said that’s all I need. I’m telling You, that’s all I have. I don’t think it’s even that big…but You said…”
I left that room healed. Still am, over 30 years later. (I know, “Duh!”)
In a funny way, I think the church of my youth was like the “butt” of the body of Christ. They didn’t do much but sit around and evaluate other parts of the body. Those congregations who were the hands, waving around in wild animation – like one who could not speak if you tied their hands down – concerned them. They are so “undisciplined.”
The fellowships that skipped, danced, and leaped, were also a great bother. Everyone “knew” that dancing was of the devil.
The “hair” flowed freely in the wind of the Holy Spirit. We didn’t have enough spiritual hairspray to tame that unruly mess!
Yet, because of God’s willingness to honor my little mustard seed of faith, I left that house pain-free for the first time in three years.
This was the first of many situations used by God to transform me. A bit at a time, He renews my mind about what He is really like, and how He operates. Every time I begin to imagine limits to what He can do, He allows an experience that expands my understanding of Him.
[For some of you, this will raise more questions than it will answer. For instance, why me? Why not you? I wish I could offer a satisfactory answer – or any answer, for that matter. There are many people I know who live with great physical pain. They’ve prayed, been prayed over, and done everything they know to do in hopes of being healed. Sometimes I am very confused by this, myself. I only know that God used this experience to correct what I believed to be true about Him.]
There were many things I learned from that experience. The newest bit of revelation came while I typed the first half of this article!
In a way, it is not unlike Peter’s experience with the vision of the sheet filled with unclean animals. God commanded him to “rise, kill, and eat.”
Peter’s religion did not permit this (yes, I know, they had the Levitical Law – but there is a parallel here). He would have to go outside what he’d been taught was okay.
God said, “Do not call unclean that which I have called clean.”
In the bedroom at the Bible study, God was saying the same thing to me: “Your religion called this unclean. I tell you that this style of worship is clean.”
As I consider what happened that night, I realize that my faith was not in the woman, nor in her prayer. It wasn’t in my ability to believe. In essence, I was praying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” My faith was in God’s ability to do what He said He would do.
I needed to know that He is a God of His Word – especially at that time. I believed Him to be a horrible, unjust, cruel tyrant. I couldn’t conceive of Him as anything else in my immaturity. This was my very first exercise in understanding His grace and mercy.
Over the years, experience by experience, He has been exposing the lies I believe about Him and replacing them with truth.
I realize that His purpose had an additional lesson for me: I need to know that we are one body; that each part of the body has it’s own function – which is good. If we were all a foot – we would be a snail. We might move, but wouldn’t get much done! Through this chain of events, God introduced me to parts of His body with which I would never have been willing to associate.
Free from religious bias, I no longer call unclean that which He has called clean.
Thanks for taking the time to read!