Recently, I was asked by a good friend to come and speak at a singles' conference. There were so many positive and uplifting things I WANTED to say, but as the conference approached, the message that I felt impressed to give was intensely personal and painful. I'm sharing it here, and I can honestly say it is the hardest thing that I have ever written...it also contains the most truth. This time, as is so often the case, those two things go hand and hand.
As someone who has not lived an easy life, I've always found great comfort in stories - there is something comforting about knowing that I can have an expected ending in a relatively short period of time. And so very often, when my life is at loose ends and I can't see answers, I find the answers I seek in Bible stories. In January 2010, I faced a dark period of testing - one that put a mirror up to my very soul and revealed a deep brokenness I had not known was there. So, to the Bible I went...
For the first time, I began to notice something about the stories of healing I had heard since I was a child listening to my Mamaw Warrell read them to me. From that very early time, I had known that Jesus was a healer, but I had never noticed how different those healing experiences were for the individuals between the pages of scripture. First, I went to Matthew 8:3-4 and Jesus healing a leper - a leper who walked right up to Jesus and said, "If you will, you can make me clean." Jesus replies, "I will, be clean." BAM! The leper is healed. That triggered the old Sunday school memory of the ten lepers, so I flipped over to Luke 17:11-19, and there they were. Ten lepers healed, but then there was that one leper...the one that came back and gave thanks. That one leper, he was MADE WHOLE.
There it was, the little detail that had been nagging at the back of mind. Why were some lepers healed, and that one leper MADE WHOLE? I seemed to remember my Sunday school teacher talking about the one leper "giving thanks," but my leper in Matthew 8 was thankful, and he didn't get made whole. One thing I knew: I wanted to be whole. Not just HEALED. WHOLE.
So, I went looking for answers. How did the people who were MADE WHOLE get that way? Where was the answer? I traced them across the life of Christ. In Matthew 14:36, anyone who touched the hem of Christ's garment was made whole. In Matthew 15:28, the woman who asked Jesus for the crumbs He would give to a dog received wholeness for her child, and in Luke 8, both the woman with the issue of blood (touching that garment again) and Jairus' daughter become whole.
By this time, I was asking The Lord where I could purchase the hem of His garment. I had been "thankful." I had engaged in "praise." I was busy with "church" and "church activities." None of those held the key. So where was it?
Clearly, in reading the stories, one thing stood out. Jesus told each recipient of wholeness, "Your faith has made you whole." But I couldn't wrap my mind around that either. That first leper? He had faith! He told Jesus that he KNEW that a touch would heal him! So, it had to be a specific KIND of faith that led to being whole. In prayer, I wrestled with God, asking Him where I would find the answer.
See, by this time, I had figured out that there is a space most of us never think about: the space between healing and being made whole. Healing is an act of Christ alone. It is sovereign, and He doesn't need US to make that happen. He can heal of His own power and His own might. We don't even need to have faith for that to happen. But being whole? That doesn't happen at the moment of healing. It happens when the power of Christ is mixed with a specific kind of faith -the faith of ACTION: the faith that DOES SOMETHING. THAT'S what those who were made whole had in common! They DID SOMETHING! For the woman with the issue of blood, she touched his garment; for the one-out-of-ten leper, he returned to give thanks; for the Canaanite woman, it was witty repartee mixed when a good dose of gumption, for Jairus, it was going out to find a man called Christ when hope seemed lost...
Then I went back to the drawing board. I felt like I had plenty of "action." I was teaching Sunday School, in the music department, videoing services, working with the youth...I was involved in so much "church" stuff that I met myself coming and going at the church doors. So, what was I missing? I didn't understand yet, but I would. All my movement wasn't action. It was just movement.
It was during this time that I found the 58th chapter of Isaiah, and I discovered the key to being made whole.
Isaiah 58:6-7 - Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him? that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
That was a selfless sort of action I wasn't entirely familiar with. The 10th verse clarified it even more:
Isaiah 58:10 - And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul...
And there it was - the secret to being made whole. To become whole, you must first be empty, but not just any kind of empty. You must pour yourself out to those who need it most - those that no one else is willing to touch.
I had an image of what I had been doing for years: filling my vessel and then "pouring it out" right back into the church building...where the people needed it the least. And all the while, there was a lost and hungry world outside that was DESPERATE for the flowing water of the spirit. And I was too busy pouring myself into GOOD things, but not the things that would truly and completely empty me out - empty me of my past, my pain, my problems - and allow Him to fill me anew.
As I continued to read Isaiah 58, the principle became so very clear. The space between healing and being made whole can only be filled with one thing: emptying yourself out to those in need: POURING OUT, so that that God can fill you again...making you whole. The rest of the 10th verse reads:
Isaiah 58:10- ...then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as noonday.
58:11 And The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
58:12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, "The repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in..."
The power of being made WHOLE is in finding an identity beyond your brokenness. It is not something Christ can do for you. It is process He participates in, but you are the key. When you take your pain and pour it out - pour it out on the needy and oppressed - then, He can make you whole. And you can plant the seeds that will become those who will build up the wastelands of our world, those that repair the breaches in a world that has become so divided that people who have not known great pain cannot span the gaps.
There is power in brokenness - the power to be made whole. Pour out, pour out, pour out...and allow Him to make you whole...
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