I’m a really selfish person. It’s not simply that I’m not generous. Even worse, I think I coast through life on my own merits, that I get by on my own strength. In other words, I’m full of myself.
That is, until something goes wrong.
It’s kind of like how you take health for granted until you’re suddenly sick, and it’s almost impossible at that point to imagine what it was ever like to be healthy. And when we’re healthy again, our memory can’t even come close to the distress of our sickness.
When we’re healthy, it’s easy to walk around with the perception that we are complete, that we have life in and from ourselves. Struck with sickness, however, we suddenly realize our frailty. We suddenly realize the weakness of our bodies, which will (one day) die. Ill, we turn to a caregiver, someone who will give us medicine or soup.
Or at least a little pity.
But, after we’ve recovered, do we thank whoever nursed us back to health? Do we look back months later with appreciation and say, “Hey, you really took care of me then. Thank you.” Do we offer thanks even days later?
Or do we just forget? Quickly.
In the Gospel reading this coming Sunday, we hear about ten lepers crying out to Christ for healing. And after being healed, only one of them returned to Jesus to thank Him.
One out of ten.
And he was a Samaritan.
Samaritans were, to Jewish people, what “Mudbloods” are to the followers of Voldemort: scum, racial and spiritual smudges at the edges of humanity. Tensions ran deep between the two communities; think of how surprised the Samaritan woman was when Christ asked her for a drink of water (John 4).
And yet it is this one Samaritan who recognizes what God has done, and returns to thank Christ for the healing.
Christ, seeing the man, says, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Lk. 17:18). Having received what they wanted, the other nine go about their lives thanklessly.
I know I may be presuming that the nine who didn’t return were Jews, but let’s go ahead and assume that they were. You would expect that these nine, part of the Chosen People of God, would have been the first to return and give thanks.
But they didn’t.
As Christians, as the People of God, is it possible that we are the ones who do not thank God for what He has done in our lives?
Do we only reach out to Him when the pain of our lives is too much to bear? Do we treat Jesus like magic, a wizard who performs tricks and then withdraws into the background of our lives, leaving us under the illusion that we are self-sufficient, that we have life in and from ourselves and that we need no one and nothing?
Too often, we don’t recognize that we are perpetually sick, standing desperately in need of healing.
And we don’t know ourselves deeply enough to understand just how sick we really are.
Maybe we’re scared to explore our own hearts. After all, who knows what we will find in that cavern? Or maybe we are simply too distracted by all the noise in our lives. After all, it’s pretty hard to be reflective when our brains are overwhelmed by a constant stream of images and sounds and data.
Whatever the case may be, we tend to shy away from self-knowledge. Unfortunately, this knowledge of ourselves, which we gain by plumbing the depths of our own hearts and recognizing the extent of our sickness, is also the path toward understanding the fullness of God’s own love for us. But paradoxically, this kind of spiritual spelunking can only begin if one is securely attached to the harness of God’s love.
Elsewhere in the Gospels, Christ says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners,” (Mk. 2:17).
For some reason, many of us are under the delusion that Christ only wants us if we are “healthy,” if we are “good boys and girls.” But Christ Himself said that He has no interest in calling the righteous, but sinners; that He did not come to heal the healthy, but the sick.
As the one who loves us though we are sinners (Rom. 5:8) Christ comes to us, not despite our sickness, but precisely because we are sick. His love is unconditional, and His healing mercies are directed at us, no matter the sickness we hide within.
Thus, we can be confident as we explore the caves of our souls. Because, no matter what evil we may find in our hearts, Christ will overcome it.
Having descended to Hades after He hung on the Cross, Christ is already waiting for us to meet Him in the darkness of our hearts. He is waiting there, knowing the full extent of our illness, and loving us in our sickness, desiring to heal us. And the extent to which we come to recognize the depth of our illness is the extent to which we open ourselves to the Lord, who wants to heal us with His Love.
As we truly open ourselves to the Lord, like the Samaritan, we should give thanks for all that He has done in our lives, recognizing all the time that there is still much work to be done in our hearts.
Let us draw near to the Lord confidently, knowing that our Physician is good, and that He draws near to us in love.
Not despite our sickness, but because of it.
Sick Woman: jpalinsad360 via Compfight cc
Cave: SantiMB.Photos via Compfight cc
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.