Do I Really Need To Be Healed?

August 14, 2012 — 49 Comments

A friend of mine took her daughter to the park recently.

While they were there, a man asked if he could pray for my friend’s daughter.  She said yes and he proceeded to pray for Kaelyn to be healed.  For her to experience “normalcy.”

And for her fingers to grow.

Kaelyn, besides being as cute as a button, has a little left hand with tiny fingers.

Me and the adorable Kaelyn

Kaelyn’s mom shared this experience on Facebook and the reactions caught me off-guard.  This guy was called a creep and an idiot, even a lowlife scumbag.  It was clear many thought his actions were beyond inappropriate; they were offensive and insulting.

The responses surprised me because I know where this guy is coming from.  I’ve grown-up in an environment where the ability of God to heal people physically is not only believed, but expected.  In fact, when I was younger, I was taken to a “healing convention,” since I was born with one hand.  We all lined-up on the floor of the coliseum and were prayed for.  I was even “slain in the Spirit.”  And by “slain in the Spirit,”  I mean that they pushed on my forehead and I dutifully fell back and then took a short nap.  My arm, shockingly, remained in the same condition.

My belief is that this man at the park was just trying to help.  He was misguided and uninformed regarding what he perceived as her needs, but I truly believe he had her best interests in mind.  Like me, Kaelyn doesn’t need physical healing for her hand.  She’s not ill or in pain, nor does she have a disease; she is the way God made her.  God didn’t forget to have her fingers grow.

Then there is the issue of normalcy, which seemed to be the most offensive part of the experience to those who commented.  “What’s normal anyway?” one person said.  Well, the definition of normal is “to conform to the most common.”  The fact of the matter is, having two hands is more normal than having one or none.  I’m sure that’s where he was coming from when he was praying for her.  Perhaps a better question than “What is normal?” then is, “Who cares about normal?”  Yeah, it’s true, I’m not normal.  I have one hand.  I’m different.  And for me at least, being different is awesome.  I believe that the more I try to be normal, the more I miss out on being unique.

The truth of the matter here is that we all have a lot to learn.

For the Christians in the house: Oftentimes, what seems right and helpful, might actually be perceived as insulting and even creepy.  This man’s words and actions, while well-intentioned, were perceived to be offensive and insulting because he assumed she wanted to be “normal” like him.  He assumed there was something “wrong” with her.  I’d suggest, before offering to pray for someone about what you perceive to be their needs, ask them what their needs are.  Tell them what you’d like to pray about before doing so and don’t be offended if they say, “No, thank you.”  Be open to hearing their perspective and learn from the situation.

And to all the non-Christians:  Be patient with us.  We Christians try really hard, but sometimes our good intentions undermine common courtesy and understanding.  Please believe that we’re trying to help, but also take it as an opportunity to teach us; especially those of us who have misunderstandings about the physically different.  And please don’t think we’re all creepy, idiotic, low-life scumbags.

The way I see it, my friend’s experience illustrated perfectly the paradigm shift that needs to continue in the world, but especially within the Christian community.  Nancy Eiesland’s work, The Disabled God, opened my own eyes to new perspectives regarding physical differences and disabilities in relation to my theological beliefs.  Certainly Jesus healed many with physical ailments, but obviously not all.  There’s no doubt in my mind that God can physically heal people, but I believe our definition of “heal” needs clarification.  For instance, perhaps you remember the paralyzed man whose friends lowered him through a roof into a crowded house because they believed Jesus could heal him.  Jesus first forgave his sins and then, to make a point to the Pharisees about the difficulty of doing so, healed the man physically.  The man’s physical healing was secondary to his spiritual healing.

I’d venture to guess that the majority of us who were born physically different would say we don’t need physical healing.  As I’ve said already, we are not ill or diseased or in pain.  We are the way God made us.  He didn’t screw-up.  We, too, have been fearfully and wonderfully made.

Let me be clear here:  I don’t envy the position “normal” people are in when it comes to knowing how to interact with those of us who are physically different.  I know most of you try hard and do your best, but the truth is, we’re all still learning.  And that’s great.  We have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.  I’m hopeful that the more we identify these issues and work through them, the better off we’ll be.

And just for the record, if you want to pray for me, I have a list.

My arm growing is not on it.

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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

49 responses to Do I Really Need To Be Healed?

  1. Thanks, Ryan, for the always-balanced and healthy perspective!

  2. So, that was the post you were pondering yesterday…I love your posts, they always give me a new perspective on “raising” my baby girl. I didn’t see the post about Kaelyn on facebook, but I would probably have had the same reaction at first as well. Now after reading your post, I would have to rethink the situation. Thanks for that.

  3. “I’d suggest, before offering to pray for someone about what you perceive to be their needs, ask them what their needs are.”

    So much wisdom in that line. Love it.

  4. I love your perspective on life!
    Thanks for sharing, you are helping me to see things from my Luke’s point of view as well.

  5. Great post! I tend to agree that the man who offered prayer was really meaning well and didn’t intend to offend. My daughter is adopted from China and has 1 little hand similar to how you described Kaelyn’s. My mom in Chicago has a Chinese friend from Bible study who was so excited about our adoption and has prayed for God to give our girl a new hand because “she has heard He has a warehouse of spare parts.” she fully means well and I appreciate her enthusiasm for our adoption and her love of our daughter. I’m new to this LOH community and have much to learn as we raise our daughter. And the community at large has much to learn about about these matters too. That’s why I love groups like this because I really do believe you can reach and teach so many! Great post, Ryan! Keep it up!

    • Thank you, Brooke! So glad you found us. 🙂 And I’ve heard those same things before. Again, it’s an interesting thing to think about because I believe God COULD miraculously give me the part of my arm I’m missing, but why? Really interesting stuff.

      • And then again, why not? I am thinking and praying about my response to people who are differently abled as a result of your post here. You were in front of me in the Culver’s drive through today and I was intrigued by your license plate and the sticker on your window, so here I am. I am a Christian who believes in the power of God to heal – and His desire to do so. Then again, I don’t know every design of God, and I would not say that anyone differently abled is not designed the way He intended. On the other hand, in the Kingdom of Heaven, there is no lack, no imperfection. Then again, a physical difference, whether born or acquired through the process of life, might not be an imperfection. It’s complex, isn’t it!? I particularly appreciate your thought about asking the person you see what their needs are. Jesus himself asked if people wanted to be healed. I must say I’m surprised that healing your arm isn’t on your list at all, since you believe God can heal. Perhaps at some time, Good healing your arm will be the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in you and around you. Maybe not, I can’t predict. But just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen, and we can’t use our lived experience of the Kingdom not appearing to be evidence that it doesn’t apply in this case. Check out Bill Johnson from Bethel in Redding CA for more on that thought if you’d like to engage your mind and Spirit in that way. (If not, no offense taken!) Thank you for posting and for helping all of us think thoroughly about our theology and the implementation of it in actual life.

    • Brooke, just had to say, “Hi!” : )
      And, say, one Titus Tue. morning, while walking into Berean, a lady asked me if I had noticed my son was missing his arm. “Um, yep.”

      It’s amazing what people will say. We’ve asked the Lord for wisdom in discerning if people ask out of ignorance, sincere concern or if they are asking & just don’t know how to phrase the words.

  6. Katie Kolberg Memmel August 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Wow, great post, Ryan. So much here to discuss. I loved your perspective on being ‘normal.’ So much discussion about that word! I do like the question, “Who CARES about being normal?” Very good question… I think some of the boundaries on that topic are widening. Teens face constant peer pressure every day about being ‘normal,’ about fitting in. But people are starting to say, “No! I’m fine the way I am! I don’t need to fit your definition of ‘normal.'” Athletes and musicians with limb differences are showing the world – not just the limb difference community, but the world – that all things are possible. That is a new concept to many people out there. Acceptance should be broadening!

    One thing I’ve learned since joining members of this one-handed community is that there is such a language of its own. Well-.meaning folks out in the world don’t know the language and we still hear words like ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped.’ I inwardly bristle when I hear them, knowing that in the language I now use, those words don’t exist in positive ways. But I think you’re right – we need to bear with a lot of behaviors. Education is the place to start.

    I love the term ‘limb difference.’ Clearly, the limb(s) are different from the ‘normal.’ (see? here we go again! haha) But I really do like that phrasing.

    I guess we’re all works in progress. I love when you said that if you want to pray for someone, find out what their needs are. Very very wise indeed.

    Thanks Ryan – well said!

    Katie M

    • Thanks, Katie! And I totally agree. There’s an entirely different vocabulary that those on the “outside” (which included me until recently) are unaware of. It’s important for us to remember that and not get angry, but to teach patiently (in my opinion).

  7. Quite possibly one of my favorite blogs by you! I taught curious kids when they were younger (and even now, still) that my son was just born different, like this one has blue eyes and mine are brown, and this one has curly hair and that one has straight hair.. we’re all made differently. I still beam with pride when I think back to the popular question “What’s wrong with your arm”, and my son would happily say “God made me extra special”.. I think your blogs are eye opening and often entertaining, and enjoy reading them. Thank you, once again!

  8. I love this post. I would have been caught off guard just as she was. I am a christian… probably not the best one.. but I agree the guy probably had great intentions… but humans are NOT tadpoles 🙂 God made us all unique for a reason 🙂

  9. I love all the comments and all the prayers of friends and family. I was in a horrible car accident 9 months ago and a brachial plexus injury (BPI)left me with one fuctioning arm. I have and continue to have many prayers for my injury but in all honesty I believe God used my BPI to heal my life. Before my accident my life was spiraling out of control. I had many major life events in 2011 — I divorced after 26 yrs, I moved from the city to the country, I lost my job after 15yrs of employment and I felt I had little to live for. My accident opened my eyes to the truth and although I may have lost my arm, but I regained my life. I thank God for opening my eye and making me normal again. Do I really need to be healed …. the answer is I am already healed!!

  10. Loooove this! It’s not something I’ve thought of… Not assuming what someone needs prayer for… Something I need to check myself!! I had a close family member who I consider a spiritual mentor gasp when I talked about God making Elam (my son )the way he is for a purpose and finding joy in what God will do w him because of his difference. She said you think God did this??!! Well I love how you put that God didn’t screw up. He didn’t! You and my son will do infinitely more in serving out your purpose than if you had all the “normal” parts:)

    • If God didn’t, who did? hehe I’m excited to hear about all the awesome things Elam does. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Amber!

  11. Thanks. I love how you shared so many perspectives. Of all the things my four children and I pray for healing of, owies to broken arms to cancer, we’ve never thought to pray that my daughter’s fingers would grow. But I wonder how many other things we are praying for aren’t actually in need of being changed.

  12. Annette Patterson August 15, 2012 at 12:26 am

    Awesome post. I used to work with your friend when I lived in Ohio. She’s an awesome person. I have been enjoying keeping up with her and her daughter via Facebook.
    My husband and I both are Christians, and we discussed this very incident this morning. I was a bit confounded about how to feel or process it.
    Your words and insight are of great help. I hope you don’t mind if I print this out to share with my Thursay night prayer group.

  13. Great post. Very thought provoking. I’d have to agree with a lot of what Katie posted. With so many trailblazers out there and a growing community supporting them, I’m excited to see what will lie ahead for my Little Sam. He’s very loving and accepting so I think if the situation above happened to him he would’ve said, “Thanks” and moved on unphased.

  14. Very well spoken. Great perspective!

  15. I love this. Living in the South – and no offense here – people are often quick to announce praying for things like this that I sometimes find a little odd. I have had comments before with Kate and I always give those people a quizzical look. My thought is, pray for my little girl to be a strong woman and have lots of confidence to do whatever she wants to do, not that her fingers will grow.

    • “My thought is, pray for my little girl to be a strong woman and have lots of confidence to do whatever she wants to do, not that her fingers will grow.” LOVE THIS. Thanks for sharing, Jessica!

  16. Oh, I have a lot of thoughts about this one. I’ll try to keep it short/reigned in. 😉

    First of all, I (like you) also believe that no matter how ignorant people are, they are generally well-intentioned. And I try to face any kind of situation like this with that at the forefront of my mind.

    HOWEVER, if anyone said anything like this within earshot of my kid, they would get a serious earful from me. I don’t care how good your intentions are, if you feel the need to imply that my kid should be anything other than he is in ANY context, we’re gonna have words.

    Plus, grow new fingers? I mean, REALLY? Well, that just makes my snark-o-meter go OFF THE CHARTS. 😉 I might not say anything directly to the person (pointless), but I’d definitely be blogging about it.

  17. Ryan, I think this is one of your best and most important blogs to date. As the issue here has nothing to do with teasing or hatred but fielding people’s good intentions.

    I actually find this to be more common than any other kind of attention related to my own hand difference. People often instinctively worry that I am in pain or am suffering from an accident, or something of that nature. Fortunately, I am not in pain, but there are those who are. The question askers aren’t wrong, they’re curious.

    Many of the blogs and support groups that have sprung to life in the last few years include the all important word “educate” right into their mission statement. I think we can agree that the best teachers are those who are patient with us, hear us out, and don’t give up on us.

    As with any movement (including Christianity) believers and the well-informed are often found one at a time. Through their own encounters with people who are already informed.

    As different individuals (and parents/supporters of different individuals) we are forced to learn a special kind of patience. We have a choice in this situation, do we respond to the prayer giver in a way that leaves him more informed and hopefully praying for other more pressing concerns, or angrily and possibly increase the divide in the world’s understanding of the awesomeness of the different?

  18. Megan Wickersham August 21, 2012 at 10:18 am

    We will soon be adopting a little boy from China who is missing his left hand. Very thankful to have found your blog and to be a part of this dialogue. I especially like your discussion on “normalcy” and that being different and unique can be an awesome thing. Yes . . . I am fully confident that our little guy is “fearfully and wonderfully made”
    Thank you for this post. I will be checking in often!

    • So glad you found us, Megan! Good luck with your little boy. Things are about to get awesome. 🙂 Stay in touch!

    • Megan, just wanted to say “Hi.”
      We brought our one-armed wonder home from China almost (gasp!!) 7 yrs. ago. Best of luck as you finish this portion of your journey!

  19. I have been reading your blog for a while with great interest as we have a daughter, born in China, missing her left hand.

    I am inclined to agree for the most part that people are misguided for offering to pray for what seems in our mind to be perfect! However, I do have a little bit of a different perspective that you may or may not agree with…

    I believe with my heart that we (humans) were created by God to love Him, serve Him, and glorify Him. I have no doubt in my mind that my daughter has the potential to do that with or without her left hand; and I do pray for that for her. ALL the time. I have however, prayed once since we have had her, that IF He chose to, he would give her the body part that she is missing. And that if He did, we would use that miracle to bring Him glory and honor. I have faith that He totally could, IF He wanted to. And I have faith that He knows whether my daughter needs to have that hand or not. So I have let it go and figure He can do what He wants!!!

    I had a friend one time who was present at the “healing” of someone else’s limbs… the woman who was missing part of some or all of her limbs actually had them GROW TO COMPLETION in front of my friend and the praying person. That is a testimony to God. He chose something different for her for whatever reason. I don’t think it’s bad to pray for something that could bring glory to God and let Him decide.

    But saying that, I do think there’s a time and place to do it… I don’t think a stranger at the park who doesn’t know us should be implying that my daughter needs to be changed. But if someone who knew us well and understood how I felt about it, wanted to pray for God to perform a miracle for the sake of bringing glory to Him, then I could see that being ok…. so long as my daughter was old enough to understand and want it, or that person prayed privately to himself.

    Thank you for sharing your insight and perspective… I look forward to continuing to read your thoughts on LOH!

    • Michele – I agree on EVERY level. Very well said! Thank you! I’ve thought that of myself before, too; that if He “healed” me it would bring Him glory. Ultimately, though, like you said, it’s up to Him. 🙂 Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts!

    • Awesome perspective! Some great thoughts here.

  20. fantastic post, I love your view on this. My little one is severely physically disabled and this is something that has happened to us on several occasions. I knew it was well intentioned even if it came off offensive at times. The one time I did react was when I had a pastor tell me if I would just pray harder and have more faith then my child would have been healed. Implying that his disability is my fault. I remarked that he is who God made him to be and needless to say we found another church. I love how my friend put it when confronted with this same thing. “Maybe God’s normal or perfect is completely different then what ours is. In God’s eyes our kids are perfect”. So glad to have found your blog.

    • Heidi last Friday I was having a bad day, one in which my outlook was far from your posted statement, “In God’s eyes our kids are perfect” so I decided to do a bible study on Job, and I am glad I did. The truth in Job’s story is something I will hold to forever … Job was not being punished by God, nor was his affliction the result of lacking faith; in fact he was being praised for his faith! God loved and was so proud of Job, not because he was prosperous or normal in the eyes of his peers but because Job loved and was faithful to God regardless of his position in life. I get great comfort knowing my accident and subsequent paralysis is not due to punishment but perhaps like Job, God is proud of my faithfulness and in his eyes I am more perfect today than I was before my accident.

      • Katrina – Thank you so much for sharing. Such beautiful insight. 🙂

      • Dear Katrina,
        Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I have been disabled for the past 9 years (and in pain for much longer than that), and have been having such a difficult time coming to terms with everything. I have gone for prayer many times over the years, and at times have been told that I just need to have more faith that God will heal me. I know that the people who have told me this care for me, and are worried about me, but it does leave me feeling that the pain is my own fault. That if I just trusted more, I would be healed… (I know in my mind this isn’t true, but in my low times I sometimes feel this way anyway). Your post helped me, and actually brought me to tears. I do have faith that God CAN heal me, I just don’t know if that is His plan for me. I need to go back and re-read Job. And I need to try to focus on bringing glory to God through all of this…
        Thank you for the encouragement!
        God Bless,

    • I’m so glad you found LOH, too, Heidi! And I’m so sorry for that experience you had. Sounds like you were able to deal with it and get to a healthier place. Thanks so much for sharing!

  21. I LOVED this post. My youngest son Silas was born just over 5 years ago and unexpectedly he had no fingers on his right hand. The nurse at the hospital gave me some of the best words I could have heard at the time when she said “how you present this to his big brother (who was only 3 at the time) will make all the difference in the world.” So I was the one who went to the waiting room to tell the whole family that Silas was born with no fingers on his right hand. I explained to my oldest son Noah that God just made Silas different, my daddy later explained it to be like Nemo’s Lucky Fin. Before the encouragement even began pouring in at the hospital God reminded me of the man in John chapter 9 who was born blind. The Pharisees asked Jesus if it was the man’s mother or father that sinned to cause the baby to be blind and Jesus replied that it wasn’t due to sin at all, but that the man was born blind so that his life would bring God glory.
    Once Silas got a little older and began to realize his differences, he told my wife and I one night that “God made him wrong.” I am thankful he is such a tenderhearted and faithful child because it only took one 5 minute conversation for our then 4 year old boy to remember that God doesn’t make mistakes and that Silas was born exactly how God wanted him to be born. To this day he still tells asking schoolmates “That’s just how God made me.”
    As far as his outlook, we try to help him have a sense of humor about things. A few weeks ago the boys went on a summer trip to a petting zoo. When a man asked how the kids liked the lion, my oldest son Noah said “He bit Silas’s fingers off!” Right on cue Silas held up his hand that is missing fingers. They’re both just funny kids like that.
    As I said before, I loved this post. I literally laughed out loud when I saw the line about growing an arm not being on your prayer needs. You keep up the good work. I appreciate everything you do.

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement, Jeremy! Noah and Silas sound like great boys. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and perspective!

  22. Beautiful post, Ryan.

    I don’t know how people will react to this, but when my baby was born without most of his left palm, and with only nubbins on it, I was devastated. I wasn’t gracious about it at all. I was upset, depressed, angry… This was not how my baby was meant to be, I thought. And yes, I prayed for a miracle for months… That God would grow his fingers, find me a way to make it ‘normal’. I was desperate – I wanted a ‘perfect’ baby, just like everyone else! And I was inconsolable. Even after I read about similar kids leading a healthy life, being able to do just about everything a two-handed person can, I could not accept that this was just how God intended my son to be.

    But my baby – who turns 1 in 10 days’ time – taught me I was worrying for no reason. As he grew up, began to crawl, and hold, and pick up things, I began to see with my own eyes that the absence of fingers wasn’t going to hinder his growth. Till then I believed him to be at a disadvantage, but his sunny ways taught me I was wrong, so wrong. He is complete just the way he is. Only I couldn’t see it. Yes, I pray for him still. But to ask God to make him strong.

    • D – Thank you SO much for your honesty and transparency. I know you are not alone. I’m so glad your little one is teaching you! Amazing how that works, isn’t it? 🙂

      Again, thank you for sharing. So powerful.

    • Dear D,
      I want to thank you for being so honest about something so deeply personal, and about such a difficult time in your life. I have not been blessed with children, but I imagine finding out that a new baby has any kind of medical condition (I’m not sure how to word it) would be a shock. But I am so happy to hear that you and your precious child are doing so well! It is amazing to see how these little ones grow so quickly and learn so fast! It must be an wonderful time.
      May God bless you and your family.

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