"O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me." Psalm 30:2
Over the last few days I have unfortunately been unwell with a pretty harsh cold. I had the opportunity during this time (apart from feeling very sorry for myself) to contemplate the wonder that is our body's natural ability to heal. The fever I suffered with, while very uncomfortable, was a stark reminder of my body's various strategies to defeat the invading virus, which when thought about with any depth truly fills a person with gratitude for the wisdom inherent in the way our immune systems function. And there was even more to be grateful for; the healing properties of chemicals and plants and the awesome wisdom of humanity that over time has learned to harness these properties to manufacture medicines that can cure or make bearable many illnesses. (How lucky we are to live, as James Martineau says in one of his prayers, "at the end of so many ages, heirs to the thoughts of the wise, the labours of the good). Finally and certainly not least, much gratitude towards the love and concern of our fellow human beings, which is often so clearly felt when one is unwell.
The more I mused on all this, the more I came to see the notion of healing and repairing as existing throughout our world and the vast cosmos beyond. It can be seen in the way a forest destroyed by a violent and all consuming fire, very quickly begins to replenish itself, with shoots of the new trees and plants emerging from the scorched earth. The way that plants and life return to land obliterated by flows of volcanic lava. The way that new stars are formed out of the vast gas/dust clouds left behind by other stars in their supernova death-throws. The way our skin so rapidly repairs itself when cut, not to mention the ability of some creatures to replace entire limbs. The power of sunlight to help ease some skin disorders, and the way that the sea and its wave actions slowly clean the last traces of oil spilled on its surface, allowing life to flourish once again, and so on and so forth.
My own personal theological conception of God is most similar to what is called Panentheism. A Greek word meaning All is in God. This understanding is present in many religions and the Jewish religion itself uses the word "Makom" Place, as one of the names of God, signifying that God is the place in which the universe exists. I conceive of the Eternal as present in every aspect of the created world, and yet not confined by it, but instead transcending "beyond" it. An analogy I personally find helpful is to conceive of an image in my own mind; say a man sitting on a swing in a park. That image has an existence, but it exists solely within me. I am therefore present in every single part of that image, in its shape, colour, texture and movement, it could not exist without me, I am the very fabric of that image, and yet I am not that image, my essence and existence transcend it.
It is my belief that the essential nature of God, The One, is unknowable, as it exits beyond all possible frames of human conception. The only way we can know something about the Divine, I believe, is through the world that He created and through revelation.
So as I look at the aspects of healing and mending that are present in nature, I see God, specifically God as Healer. The very properties in chemicals and plants that cure illness and discomfort, the very forces discovered by science that bring new life to where destruction ruled are the healing Hand of the Divine itself, revealing Her merciful face as a God who wants this world of ours to exist and to mend and to repair. Nature is both a veil that hides the Divine countenance and a mirror that magnificently reveals it
And so onto us, made in the image of our Father in Heaven as we are informed so radically by the Bible. Should we not also, as a religious imperative use the power of healing and mending inherent in us for the improvement and welfare of our fellow human beings, and beyond that to the other dwellers of this world? Surely religion is not only about prayers, observances, self-actualisation, personal salvation, committee-meetings and some coffee and biscuits.
For did our teacher Jesus, himself not send out his followers into the world to heal:
"And he sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick."
I am a believer that we can all do something to bring healing to those who are ill, indeed a wonderful American Orthodox Rabbi, Rav Pam, taught his students that even telephoning an unwell person, and talking with them for a while can bring them cheer, which even if for only a few moments has the power to make them feel better. This too is healing. What do we do and what could we do, as individuals and congregations to support our local hospitals and hospices I wonder?
But there are other ways too. There are so many rifts amongst people, from the trivial to the international. What part do we play as individuals, and as wider congregations to bring together those who have been torn asunder by hatred, pain or mistrust, and heal those divisions?
We can of course never be one hundred percent sure, but I feel that if we play our part, however small, in bringing health and reconciliation to our world, we too will become living demonstrations of the Almighty's healing presence and a testimony that God is found within us as much as beyond us.
"And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." Luke 8:48