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.
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.