We were at a picnic. Enjoying the Ohio late summer stuff…I think this would have been 1991 or 1992. My husband was enjoying the picnic and enjoying being around friends, but his HIV was beginning to show….he was gaunt, pale…fatigued that day.
There are many different strains of Christianity…One of them the charismatic sort, emphasizes the Holy Spirit and it’s gifts (In my opinion it steps on that nerve to its own detriment, deemphasizing grace, struggle, social justice, the value of each of us just as we are, etc, but that is only my opinion.)
And one of these charismatic, laying on of hands Christians looked at him and gave him the Enormous Pity/Tragedy stare…walked up to him and asked if she could lay hands on him.
Immediately he ceased cheerful banter and shut down. His mouth got hardand his hands got still. He advised his mother, because he was having trouble even looking at the woman directly, that he wanted no such thing. This sort of healing was something he had feared and avoided ever since he was just a little kid with hemophillia. She tried to play the peacemaker between the two and get her friend to back off, but her eyes only got bigger and sadder and she said “Oh, please…”
I was afraid he might lose his temper, as he did often, but I was equally afraid that he would give in. He was a Baptist, and generally while Baptists are with the charismatics on hellfire and damnation they don’t hold with speaking in tongues or laying on of hands or other such woo-woo traditions.
Instead, I saw something atypical for him. He surrendered. Just as against it, but clear that he wasn’t going to win this one. He slumped down on the bench, pulled inward and downward and lowered his head.
It was actually harmful. It looked like a kind of mental torture for him…because as clear-eyed as he was at that point about the terminal nature and trajectory of his illness, he was a devout guy. This woman, while well meaning, I’m sure, was putting her hands on him and unwittingly passing on the anguish of a thread of false hope, or driving the point home that even if some part of him believed God *could* heal him, that it was clear to him, as it was not to this woman, that immediate miraculous physical healing was not something God was going to use on his journey.
Afterwords we left, and the experience clouded his mood for sometime after that.
I entreat and implore *anyone* who believes in this stuff to keep their distance from persons with illness and disabilities to keep great space between us, unless we ourselves come to you and ask. (It’s right up there with that cloying, annoying “God told me to tell you,” phrase. God is not a celestial gossip. If he speaks he speaks to individuals about *themselves!*)
My husband did not need to be dragged into the faith healer tent…if anything what was needed was what he got from his closer friends in the faith community, and asked for often. Prayers for strength, for endurance, and space to allow him to question the very existence and closeness of God.
If you feel the need to pray for someone, unless they ask for public prayer or laying on of hands…instead, pray privately, fervently, where it may do much more good than harm.