When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:43-35)
When we break a leg and go through all we need to go through to have it mend, we don’t expect that as a result of this healing, we’ll experience more breaks about our body.
Just because we healed and are whole again.
Neither do we experience after recovering from the flu an influx of various other respiratory ailments, just because we healed and are in the pink once again.
Re-infestation of disease just because we are healthy.
What a concept!
In fact, the body functions in just the opposite manner: the more healthy our body is, the stronger it is to fight off germs and sustain injury. To us, health is a good thing.
And yet, the Bible is so deep with its teachings about the soul that it even warns us that after a profoundly effective spiritual healing, all that we can expect is problems seven times worse than the one we had before.
Do what you can to heal, and you’ll be slammed with a reinfection.
So why heal in the first place?
If we knew that each time we had a tooth filled, seven other heretofore perfectly good teeth would fall out, would we get the tooth filled, or just live with the discomfort?
As impressed as I am that the Bible chose to include this profundity (although I can imagine the shake of the heads when first hearing this), I am equally unimpressed with the way the Christian church approaches healing.
If it approaches healing at all.
But when it does, there are arms in the air of self-congratulations: Look see what we accomplished! This man (or woman) is healed and whole once again!
That’s one term used for it.
A person has released a whole lot of grief that kept him from having a loving relationship with God, and it’s viewed as an end of the process. An accomplishing of the goal.
Yeah. Well. Not so much.
And that’s the real problem with not taking the Bible seriously. Or using it as some sort of banner-worthy slogan-making machine.
You miss all the really good stuff.
This is where spiritual discipline and commitment come in.
We’re so accustomed to being able to go skiing after the doctor has given us the green light after our break because we just want to have fun, that we think that after being freed from a particular nasty spiritual infestation, we can just go out into the world and, well, have fun.
But in the spiritual world, this is when the real work begins.
In order to stay healthy, to stay functional, even, we have to don the mantle of asceticism. Prayer is no longer just done when one happens to go to church, or muttered when things get terribly tight. Instead, it has to become as essential to one’s life as food is.
There has to be a complete turning over of the soul to God. And practicing this faith and trust in something most of us do not experience becomes a severe self-discipline on its own.
It is also the time to admit where you went wrong, and, even more importantly, where you are still wrong today.
People don’t like doing that.
Especially the second part.
One can go through a healing and see, in part, where they have gone wrong in the past. But, once healed, all things are a go. I’m fine just the way I am.
That’s the tricky part.
I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Someone has managed to pull out the thorn that has been embedded in their soul for most of their life, and goes skipping off, only to be slammed into a wall of limitation and possibly even disgrace.
Well, look at what Matthew teaches. You clean your soul. Give it a good sweep. And guests arrive before you’ve even put the broom away.
Bet you never saw them coming.
That’s because demons are really, really good at finding your blind side.
Your arrogance, that isn’t so out-of-place at the office, but in front of God, not so much.
Your indifference to the suffering that you pass by every day.
Your self-indulgence in things even you know should not be indulged in. Quite so much. Fine, not at all.
For a human, feeling good can lead to letting down all sorts of defenses.
We only want to think about religious discipline when we know we need help.
God as a band-aid used only when we are bleeding.
It’s like having been healed of something physical, receiving specific instruction from the doctor on how to maintain this current state of health, and then going out and partying every night. And ignoring everything the doctor told you.
I remember a man who upon coming out of the hospital after a serious disease was equipped with his medicine – which had the instruction, don’t take with alcohol. But he kept drinking, explaining that the instruction was not to take the pill with alcohol. Any other time, drinking alcohol was just fine.
He died shortly thereafter. From complications due to taking the medicine with alcohol.
Spiritually, that’s what we are all like.
I’m fine. I’m out of the hospital. Leave me alone. I just want to have fun.
So what is the best way to find our need for discipline in the light of our spiritual euphoria?
Well, it would be so nice if churches took our actual spiritual health seriously and put in place support for this. For those in need of healing. For those recovering from healing.
Like study groups in school. A place where we can go to become aware of our weaknesses and find the means for shoring up.
Perhaps we can all look at our own church and find ways that healing can be approached.
But, there’s also this nice little prayer on humility:
Lord Jesus, when you walked the Earth, your humility obscured your kingship. Your meekness confused the arrogant, hindering them from grasping your purpose, your nobleness attending to the destitutes. Teach me to model after your eminence, to subject my human nature to humility. Grant me a with a natural inclination to never view myself greater than anyone. Banish all lingering sparks of self-importance that could elevate me greater than you. Let my heart always imitate your humility.
It’s a start anyway.