Living & Growing: Healing and a hand to hold

By Tari Stage-Harvey

Writing about something I know nothing about seems like a bad idea, but I’ve never let a bad idea stop me before. I’m thinking about “Dr. Who,” the BBC series about a time traveling doctor who helps save civilizations with the support of his companions. When the doctor is too damaged, then they regenerate into a new doctor with different gifts and attributes but still the same mission of saving humanity.

The music creeps me out, and I can’t watch it, but I do love people who love “Dr. Who.” I love them enough to have a birthday party with sonic screwdrivers and the last human alive pizza (not too hard since the character looks like a cheese pizza). And I love them enough to know the newer seasons are filmed in Wales.

I will hopefully be in Wales with an intergenerational group of 28 from the church as you read this. We’ve been planning a pilgrimage of healing to Ireland and Wales for over two years. These last years have taken a toll on many and there is great hunger for healing or at least an awareness that something feels wrong.

Healing in Jesus’ ministry is not about surviving another day. Life, and clinging to it, is an easy idol, but the mission of our faith is not to see who can beat death for the longest. Healing in Jesus’ ministry is about removing the obstacles that keep people from engaging in community. They will still die and suffer, but not in isolation and alienation.

As people who are drawn to Jesus, we ground our lives in a God who is described as relationship in the trinity and then we seek to live that out in communion with one another, our own selves, and God. I’m getting excited talking about the trinity and trying to control not going down the “I love the dance of the triune God so much” rabbit hole.

Healing is being brought back into communion; it is not a “get out of pain” free card. As we witness people in our nation getting entrenched in isolation and self-deception where they feel justified in hurting others, one of the antidotes is community. Building a community is about gathering a diverse group of people so we may learn how to love and forgive even when we don’t necessarily like or understand each other. Community is where we get to be human with each other instead of dismissed as an idea or issue to despise.

We have done several trips at Shepherd of the Valley with an intergenerational group and there is something meaningful and “Jesusy” as I like to say, about gathering people to figure it out. They are vulnerable with each other in small groups as they share struggles and questions; they are vulnerable with each other as they figure out who cleans up dinner and how to share the bathroom. Healing is moving out of our comfort zones to engage others unguarded to figure out how to love and be loved.

It’s not that I don’t believe cancer can be cured or the lame can walk, but those aren’t ends in themselves. Healing is an opportunity to build relationships.

Even for the Doctor.

I’m not going to pretend I know the ins and outs of how Doctor Who and his companions function, but I’ve had enough people try to explain it to me that it sounds deeply relational.

One of my favorite quotes that I think captures the nature of healing and community well, “There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive… wormhole refractors… You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.” — The Doctor, Season 6, Episode 6.

•Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor for Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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