The Taser's Edge


Which Is Easier?: Divorce, Forgiveness, and Healing

The Gospel According to Luke 5:17-26 (ESV):

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

In the wounded state in which the end of my marriage left me, my friends brought me to Jesus, and I knew that I wanted Him to heal me. But when Jesus looked at me and said, “Your sins are forgiven,” I realized that that was what I had most wanted. The desire deeper than my desire to be healed, a desire I had not known I had, was to be forgiven.

Why, consciously speaking, did I have the desire to be healed, but not the desire to forgiven? I wanted His healing because I could feel my hurt every day and every step and almost every breath, a spiritual nerve damage. I did not want forgiveness because I did not believe it was possible for me to be forgiven.

Many people have noted that evangelical Christians tend to focus on certain favorite sins, especially those with any connection whatsoever to sex, while mentally marking others as less important or less harmful. I thought I was good at avoiding this particular trap until I found myself getting divorced, and I found I was incapable of believing that God forgave me. When I tried to believe, my imagination sputtered, died, and rolled to a stop. Loss of imagination is more than a foggy, moonless night. Loss of image-ination is the definition of blindness.

How broken was the body of the man whom Jesus forgave and healed? Was he born this way? It’s hard to believe that he could have survived into adulthood if that had been the case. Did he have a degenerative illness that we could name today but still couldn’t cure? Did he have a spinal cord injury?

To “rise, pick up your bed and go home” requires balance and the finest of motor skills along with that bundle of motions we call the ability to walk. Think through all of the motions and muscle groups required to stand up from the floor, kneel down and roll up some bedding, stand up again, then bend over to pick up that mat and carry it over your shoulder to walk home. These are levels of restoration happening in the human body that we still could not explain.

And yet forgiveness is the miracle, what Jesus extends first and what even the Pharisees and the teachers of the law know is something only God can give.

To receive forgiveness in the places we most need it is not only a passive reception but an act of the will. We don’t even know if the paralyzed man believed that he was indeed forgiven. I do will to believe and more and more I succeed.

I cannot offer enough gratitude to all those who carried me to the Healer and who strengthened my will to believe that He was also a Forgiver. Thank you.

Healing High Five!

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Tuesday Reading Wrap-up 1 (a.k.a. Tuesday Reading Roundup 11 (a.k.a. Tuesday Reading Retrospective 1))

Due to the 2-hit combo of shrill popular request and common sense (a dramatization of that conversation can be found here), I decided to change the weekly preview to a weekly retrospective.

1. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller–This book is divided into four books.  It starts out very promising, but now at 3/4 of the way through, I wonder if there is too much going on.  This is why I hate talking about books before finishing them and judging them before I finish them.  But, so you know what the convolutedness is about, Superman has shown up; the Soviets have launched a nuclear war with a bomb which also had an electromagnetic pulse, knocking out all America’s electronics (and thus her own launch capacities); and Superman has almost died because of the fact that the blast blocked out the sun.  Oh yeah, Batman is still around, getting shivved by the Joker and then getting rescued by the new Robin (who’s a girl!).

2. The Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person by Tom Smail–Smail is (was?) a Church of England priest who had some very real charismatic experiences and then felt the need to write about the charismatic world theologically, in order to correct both the excesses of the non-denominational charismatic movement and the shortcomings of the larger Church in speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit.

3. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann–Ha.  I finished it…at least the bulk of it.  It has a rather lengthy appendix attached, which I am inclined to read.  It took me forever, but I would still suggest you read it.

4. Beyond Companionship: Christians in Marriage by Diana S. Richmond and David E. Garland–The selection for this week is the final chapter of the book, “What God has Joined Together.”  As you might guess, it is a chapter on divorce, a very good chapter, indeed much better than the other resources we read for this week, apparently Divorce Week, in Esther Acolatse’s Christian Marriage and Family Across Culture.

5. Ending Marriage, Keeping Faith: A New Guide Through the Spiritual Journey of Divorce by J. Randall Nichols–I actually read the selections from this book before the last book, and I was really disappointed by it.  Nichols, I think, is purposely trying to push buttons of conservative Christians with chapters titled “Divorce is Not a Sin” and “Forgiveness Has Its Limits” (which, while they may not sound provocative to you, they certainly do in certain circles).  He then claims to set out to see “what the Bible really says” on the topic of divorce, but fails to do any real exegesis.  While I think that most people need to be shown how complicated the difficult parts of life really can be, Nichols mostly talks in generalities while claiming to talk in specifics about various Scriptures coming into contact with modern life.  As I already said, it’s disappointing.  All caregivers need to problematize life to show how complicated it really is; pastoral caregivers need to take no less trouble in respecting the complexities of Scripture.

6. “Divorce and Remarriage in the Catholic Church” by Michael G. Lawler–Lawler digs into canon law, Church history, and Scripture in order to argue for inconsistencies in the Roman Catholic Church’s views on marriage, annulment, and divorce.  It’s interesting, but only so compelling to me as an outsider.