Many people’s awareness that God can heal is in tension with their own experience of illness or disability. There is, however, an important difference between healing and curing. Healing relates to the restoration of humanity’s relationship with God. All people require healing. Healing was and is Jesus’ primary emphasis throughout the gospels. We see this when Jesus says to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven,” followed by, “Pick up your mat and walk” (Mark 2:5-9). The miracle cure demonstrated God’s power and that the man’s healing, the restoration of his relationship with God, had taken place.
I was born with cerebral palsy, I have a visual impairment, and I am not able to walk. A campus minister once said to me, “When I first met you, I assumed that I should pray for your physical healing because of your disability, but when I got to know you better, I realized the healing you seek pertains to restoration of relationships, so that is what I pray for you.” His insight highlights that different people desire healing for different reasons. The better we know someone, the more we might be able to form our prayers and our support around what will bless them.
I have been liberated from many limitations through my wheelchair and other assistive technology. I am blessed by many personal care attendants who communicate their care and God’s love for me in the practical ways they support me. I am intimately connected to many members of my extended family and my church family. I have a great job and a strong sense of purpose. These represent healing for me because they make me ever mindful of God’s continuous work in my life.
One reason I have not yet and might never experience a cure from cerebral palsy might be that God can do more with me in my power wheelchair than if I was an average, walking woman. My disability often gets others’ attention. It allows me to speak to them about what really matters: finding purpose in Jesus, living life abundantly, and sharing that life with others so they want to draw closer to Jesus too.
Another reason I have not experienced a cure might be that I don't really want one. If I was suffering from cancer or another life-threatening, unstable health condition, I would pray for a cure. However, I have been using a power chair since I was 2 years old. This is the only life I know, and it is a life I love.
There have been deeply spiritual moments in my life where I have imagined my body differently. In the movie The Shack, there is a scene where Jesus and Mac run across the water together. When I saw that I thought, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if the first time I ran was with Jesus?” I resist the idea of my disability falling away when I meet Jesus because I don’t think my disability is necessarily a sign of brokenness that will be cured in heaven. However, I was deeply encouraged by the pilot episode of The Chosen, when the leg brace of the shepherd who had difficulty walking fell away as he ran to meet baby Jesus.
One question asked in the song I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe is, “Will I stand in your presence?” This resonates with me because I don’t know if I will run toward Jesus using my legs in heaven or if I will travel toward him full throttle in my power wheelchair. Either way, I will move toward him as quickly as possible. I hope that you will do the same!