I went to see Logan this evening; I love the comic book films, love the characters and worlds and adventures and connections. And for the longest time I loved the action part of action films—I loved a good fight scene where the hero (rarely a heroine) takes down all the bad guys with fists of fury and a kick-ass rock song.
But this—this film was all anger, sorrow, and pain. I can’t do this level of gore and rage anymore, can’t absorb the sheer amount of ache that we as a culture have reached. We are in so much pain, Reader; the sickened edges of our never-healed wounds of racism fester in our bellies, the blood we spill on our streets and everyone else’s leaves us weak and stumbling, our throats are raw from throwing up the vapid and unhealthy bullshit we have tried to convince ourselves is any kind of nourishment. Our illness colors our news, our music, our pastimes and yes, our movies.
We need healing.
It’s funny; I started writing this while half-listening to a Christian radio station and three songs in a row now have dealt with the concept of healing. Part of that is the Spirit reading over my shoulder, but more of it is that Christianity has a lot to say about healing and the need for it. After all, one of the many terms for God is “Healer.”
But from what? Of what? Oh no, Christiana, don’t be one of those Christians who equate spiritual sin with emotional and bodily malaise, as though some people deserve to be punished with illness. No, Reader—my best friend has a disease that is frying his brain a little bit more every day, stripping it of its effectiveness. My good friend’s wife is fighting a cancer that sits sullenly in her femur, spine, and chest. I myself am gradually going deaf because my body cannot recognize the way it’s supposed to work in order to hear. I can’t believe in a god who would cause such prolonged torment to satisfy reparation of sin. That’s sadism, and I don’t roll with a sadistic God.
There’s something to be said, though, for the gulf between Christianity’s language of healing and the reality of just how broken we are in so many ways. Do we keep breaking ourselves, outpacing God as we find new ways to inflict pain? Do we never allow ourselves to fully heal, running pell-mell into the next ill-thought thing before our bodies and souls have had time to re-knit? Perhaps. I am most certainly guilty of both of these, especially when it comes to myself. How I haven’t more seriously injured myself on a number of levels, I don’t know. But I am certainly not whole. I am broken.
In the film—which I can’t say that I recommend, although it is incredibly well acted, because it is so incredibly violent; there’s a great breakdown of it through the lens of its relationship to religion here—an underlying theme is that you’re never so broken you can’t be at least on the way to healing. Everybody gets a chance at redemption, at reclaiming the best part of themselves; some take it, some don’t. Healing comes from being willing to walk back to what you could have been.
I was recently reading an article for class about John Wesley’s ideas of healing and that he had no problem whatsoever with both medicine and prayer as effective tools of healing. He also never blamed sick people for getting sick. We live in mortal bodies that are constantly falling apart. We should definitely take better care of them (preaching to myself) but we can’t stop our own mortality. We are not Wolverine, able to heal almost instantly, and yelling at sick people about what they should be able to do is both foolish and cruel. I appreciate that the vast majority of Biblical references to healing have no truck with blaming the broken. Do they have to do things, like get up or reach out for a hem? Yes. Healing requires work on our part. But do they get shamed into being well? Nope. We are all of us broken, so what good would shame do? How silly is it for one mortal to tell another mortal that their mortality is shameful?
I realize that I’m switching back and forth between a lot of different kinds of healing and brokenness, but that’s a little deliberate (and a little due to my mind being in about fourteen different places right now). I think it’s all of piece not in that your soul makes you have cancer but that sickness isn’t just a physical thing. When I am sick—and I’ve been fortunate in never being long-term, all-the-time sick—I definitely notice an impact on my spiritual and emotional self. And when I’m aware of my broken spirituality, it takes a toll on my physical commitments.
You may choose, good Reader, to push back on any and all of my assertions. Perhaps, for you, the spirit has nothing to do with the body, or perhaps you’re really uncomfortable with my equating sick and broken because those mean different things to you. Please, challenge me. But recognize that in this wilderness of Lent, we are not whole, and we are not healthy. Even Jesus needed angels at the end to put Him back together from the stress of the environment and the temptations.
I simply want us to consider, as I have been doing in light of the film, where our brokenness is. Where do we need healing? What can we do about that, in both the “non-miraculous” medical and the “miraculous” prayer sense? (Yes, I put those in quotes because I think it’s a false dichotomy.) And where are we healed that we can celebrate? Where, in this desert of forty Lenten days, do we already see the bright edges of Easter?
Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch and heal him. Taking the blind man’s hand, Jesus led him out of the village. After spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on the man, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “I see people. They look like trees, only they are walking around.” Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again. He looked with his eyes wide open, his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25, CEB)