Most Christians of every denomination think of Jesus as a healer. He prayed for people, spoke comforting words to the afflicted and touched the wounded. He raised people from the dead. We cannot be sure how Jesus understood the results of his healing ministry, but we can guess that his goal was not to merely take away peoples’ pain or all of their mortal limitations. He also wanted people to receive an immediate existential sense of their eternal life in the present. A healed person is a converted one, a person who realizes a new personal identity as one who comes from God and is going to God–not only or merely as a belief, but rather as an actual experience. People who are converted in this way know that they live a limited, chronologically circumscribed life, and yet also sense that they stand in a place of infinite love, blessedness, freedom and healing that is timeless. In Jesus’s mind, such a person refocuses his or her life to love God and others in unselfish ways. St. Paul would call such a state of consciousness the mind of Christ–something that we already have, and something that we live.
What might it mean for Christians on the contemplative path to be healed? Many of us might say that we want to be healed in body, mind and spirit, but how exactly is a healed body, mind or spirit different from a wounded one? It has been said that a cure is different from a healing in that a cure removes all pain and while a healing may not. A healed person might experience emotional or physical pain and yet also feel healed. We might also make a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain usually refers to the actual physical sensation of discomfort, but suffering often adds an emotional and cognitive dimension. Does the contemplative Christian path offer a life without pain and suffering? We think not. We might say, however that when we live within the Jesus story, our pain and suffering have a meaning that inspires us to carry on, and to feel connected to the larger reality of God’s Presence, and to the suffering, joy, and creativity of others.
The contemplative life is continuously invigorated, deepened, and nourished by silence. But silence is not always a healing solitude. By itself, silence can be terrifying and lonely. One can feel abandoned. When silence is continuously unsettling, one might be experiencing vestiges of childhood trauma, abuse or abandonment. Thus it is good to recognize the occasional need for psychotherapy, counseling, and 12 Step support. As the child psychiatrist D.W. Winnicott wrote in his “The Maturational Processes,” and “Playing and Reality,” when we’ve experienced good and steady parental presences as a child, we emerge into adulthood with a sense that when we are alone, we are always in the presence of a someone who cares for us, and will protect us. Adults with a spiritual practice can experience this caring someone as a good parent, and also as a Someone who is transcendent–a timeless Presence.
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