My first healing miracle occurred in a public place. A seminary, in fact.
At morning Mass. During the service. At the rail.
And while the event disturbed me deeply, I was still conscious enough to watch people around me and how they reacted to me now.
Now that they knew.
I didn’t know I had this ability.
But the next second in my life after the touch, they knew.
My reaction, of course, as it has been my whole life, was to curl up like a mole somewhere soft and dark and just stay there until the commotion was over.
We don’t think of that word being attached to God.
Mostly we think, Yes, I believe in God, but this morning’s newspaper is a lot more interesting than to think about than God.
We don’t think of God as causing commotion.
Perhaps we have created in our souls an automatic clean-up system for God’s touching our lives and leaving a bit of a mess.
He comes. He knocks over a vase. We just clean it up.
We make God’s presence on Earth nothing.
But through my own daze and fury at this exposure I did see their eyes. I did note their reactions.
When I stepped through a door, those on the other side parted.
Yes, just like the Red Sea.
No longer did I need to weave in and out of people like normal.
No. Now I had the middle of the corridor all to myself. With people clinging to the walls beside me.
I’m grateful they didn’t bow. Or kneel.
I would have been even angrier then.
There were the moist eyes. The sound of talking going immediately into barely heard whispers.
Was I the subject the those whispers?
I assumed so.
I wanted to go find a hidden toilet somewhere and just sit there. Behind a locked door.
In the dark.
Until I could walk down a hall without notice.
And, all of a sudden, my New Testament teacher who thought my bringing actual English skills to the matter of reading the Bible was reckless and disrespectful, did not speak to me. Of course, no one any longer spoke to me.
I had crossed the line.
That overall response still makes me sick to my stomach to think of.
It was the beginning of learning what God looks like when reflected in another person’s eyes who had just seen him. Or at least saw him through me.
But it wasn’t the ending.
There was the screaming priest who when told about this same incident made clear of his opinion that I was a monster who needed to be purged from the church immediately.
He didn’t get his wish.
I did not purge myself.
So that was fun.
Watching him after that.
Just sitting there, finding my place in the hymnal. Standing. Sitting. Kneeling.
I even attended some meetings that he led. Attended social events at his house.
I kept my smug smile to myself. But it was there all the time.
I really had crossed the line with him. And it was only the story of a healing.
Imagine his wrath had he witnessed one.
We have come down, from a reality of being out of body into the harsh reality of being in a body.
A body that gets hungry and hurt and lonely.
And somewhere, fairly soon, we put up a sign: NO GOD HERE.
And even when God comes bashing into our worlds we make very short shrift of it.
Out comes our automatic God clean-up system. And we’re good again.
I think, in all honesty, it’s because receiving a grace from God hurts. It shines too bright a light on all those parts of our lives where there was no God’s grace.
The time our daughter fell through the ice while skating and lost a foot as a result.
Those times we lost our job because someone else took a hankering for it and spread lies about us so that we were fired.
Those times we were stranded on a dark road with a flat tire and no spare.
All those little, wee moments of darkness and tears.
So many moments.
And then, bam! it’s God showing up in our lives. Bringing a gift. Delivering a solution. Knocking over a vase in the process.
And what are we supposed to do we do with all our bad moments in the glare of his love?
How can we, when we know that mere seconds after God’s gift has come something dark will happen.
The refrigerator will break down.
Our favorite aunt will call with very bad news about her health.
Better to stay in the dark than to experience those glittering possibilities that God reveals to us.
Too much of a tear from the jerking from reality to super-reality.
Too much contrast.
And then there’s the matter of the commotion.
Before my grandmother, now in her nineties, died I began to have a series of visions about her death. The family (all of it) tended to drop in on her in the summer. But these visions told me that she was going to die before the coming summer. And they went on and on. Repetition on one very real characteristic of God.
And as the weeks and months went on I thought that I should do something about it.
I gathered any bits of courage I could find, pretended that I had a lot more than I actually did, and began to telephone my family to let them know, and urge them to come and see our matriarch and say our goodbyes.
It was the most formal expression of me crossing the line.
I managed to offend every member of my family.
It’s Julia, after all.
Great. My name as an actual curse-word in my own family.
But I went. I took my children and went to Maine for an entire month (or more).
And it was very clear that the visions were accurate.
My grandmother spent her nights screaming at death. It was there. In the house. Already.
And she was having none of it.
Didn’t surprise me that she thought she could scold Death out of its intention.
There were other signs.
But I finally left and came home again.
And she died in April.
And with the exception of my mother, who lived next door to my grandmother, I was the only one in the family to say goodbye to her.
The rest of my family was furious.
It’s too painful even now to think of it.
I didn’t attend the funeral.
I had a battle going on with my husband.
I had children to tend.
And since that time, my family will have nothing to do with me.
I started thinking about this because the other day I was talking with a woman who was caught up in family matters. And the catching was complex. And onerous. And real.
And I thought, I have no family any longer to be caught up in.
I had crossed the line.