dear friends II

A few weeks ago, Eddy and I attended a prayer meeting at church called RezFast (though, I had not fasted), in which we prayed together in small groups for Holy Week. At one point, Father Stewart invited us to pray for healing: spiritual healing, emotional healing, physical healing. It fell upon me in my small group to pray for physical healing. As you may know, my body has been sort of a wreck in the past few years, and I’d often wished for healing of this sort. But physical healing was on the fringes of my worldview, so when I prayed, I only had the courage to pray for an increase of faith in our church to ask for and to receive physical healing.

That prayer worked in me over the next week, and while I was praying on Maundy Thursday, miracle of miracles, I felt an invitation from the Lord to ask for the healing of my food allergies. In the past few months, those allergies have been increasingly difficult to deal with. Food prices had gone up a lot and I had started reacting to things I had been able to eat before. I was walking around every day feeling hungry, and I was tired.

So on Maundy Thursday, I felt this invitation from the Lord to ask for healing, and when I asked, I felt this great freedom to ask, and I felt good about asking, as if I had done the right thing. Now, I had asked for healing for this issue before, but it was always like, “God, please heal me through this diet, or these pills.” I had believed in some way that God could heal me but I did not believe that he would, especially without any work on my part. This was different.

But since I was not experienced at listening to the Lord in prayer, that prayer left me bewildered and unsure. So I asked again on Good Friday, and then again on Holy Saturday, and in spite of my doubts, only grew in confidence that this was from the Lord.

But how would I know, other than by eating? When I ate wheat, my belly would swell up and get uncomfortable and I would lose my appetite for a few days. Cow’s milk was much more miserable. I had developed an aversion to dairy products.

So I decided that on Easter Sunday lunch, I would eat a dinner roll. I ate one with my lunch, and it tasted very good. I felt my stomach fill up, I felt my food digest, and then I felt hungry again! A wonderful feeling! But I still wasn’t certain. That night I ate two malted milk balls from our Easter egg hunt, all the while praying “Lordhavemercy, lordhavemercy, lordhavemercy,” and I woke up in the middle of the night and felt my sinus allergies and a little pain in my guts, and I was sad. Lord, I am such a fool, I thought. But when I woke in the morning, all was well, so I decided to try again. I ate two slices of whole wheat toast, and waited, and felt good, and felt hungry again. Later, I tried more Easter candy, and I wasn’t afraid.

In the morning, I resolved to end the experiment by eating something that should have truly hurt me, Greek yogurt, full of milk protein.  I felt like the Lord was telling me, “Eat! Eat! Enjoy!” So I brought out Eddy’s tub of Greek yogurt and I got myself a big ol’ scoop, and I ate. I waited, and waited, and paced the apartment, and waited, and nothing happened! So I ate half a pizza that night, and when I woke up in the morning, my stomach was my own, less bloated than on most mornings, and I gave thanks to God, and started calling my family. I have truly been healed from nearly seven years of food allergies, frustrating mishaps and a limited diet, and I am so free to enjoy the good world God has made. (Ricotta cheese! Milkshakes! French bread!) And praise God, I have not been hungry  and I have felt a new sense of well being and energy!

I have tasted a tiny, tiny, but glorious bit of resurrection life. What a beautiful, delightful gift this Easter! Give thanks to God with me!


resurrection at resurrection

Christ Pantocrator by iconographer Dmitry Skholnik

Christ Pantocrator by iconographer Dmitry Skholnik

We held our breath. Our priest shouted: Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Joy erupted. We all shouted back: He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And then, bells. Hundreds of bells, sets of car keys, pots and pans, all clamoring together. Shouts and whistles and cheering and clapping. That priest, like a child on Christmas morning, sprinting around the altar. The great noise! Can you imagine, being forbidden from speaking “alleluia” for the entire Lent? It was like joy rose from the grave.

Joy had risen from the grave. We received the Eucharist, and we went on singing and dancing. The whole church danced. Priests and deacons, children, and adults, held hands and danced around the aisles. Jesus rose from the grave and we welcomed his reign with shouts and dancing. It was joy at its most uninhibited. My Lord and my God!

Is Jesus real?

Easter confronts us with the Jesus who has all things under his feet. Easter tells us that he has already won. Jesus our Pantocrator has defeated sin and death, pain and suffering, and all evil forces. Nothing in this life remains to be feared.

When everyone around you  is suddenly enlivened by the resurrection,  it’s hard not to believe. But if it’s true, it’s not just true during those few hours of the Easter Vigil each year. If it’s true, I really have nothing to fear. Not poverty, disease, death, not even ridicule. I could give up everything and still have everything. I still win, because Jesus won.

Jesus (and everything he implies) was never so real as that night. But it hadn’t just been that night, or that week, as beautiful as they were. Some three years ago, during my days of deepest depression and despairing of God’s absence, I walked into Church of the Resurrection for the first time, and saw the joy on our rector’s face, and I believed in God. You can’t make joy up.

These moments of epiphany are powerful, but I am desperate for them to begin closing in on my everyday life. Most days, I cannot see God, and I forget. I forget who really won this world, and what my life means because of it. Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Oh Lord, help my unbelief.