I heard a sermon one time by a man named Booze, an odd name for a preacher. He wasn’t very skilled, educated or articulate. I heard him in a storefront church in the tiny town of Auxvasse Missouri. The church had become a hotbed of Charismatic activity in the mid-70’s. Why I remember him and his sermon I don’t know?
He preached about a pendulum. He said that the pendulum of Christian expression swings. He cautioned that while we were experiencing renewal and freedom, we would eventually return to a more subdued expression of our faith. He didn’t want us to lose our zeal.
I was young. I thought I would never lose my zeal. He was wise. Zeal eventually is tempered by the realities of life. At times, I long for the days of zealous enthusiasm and exuberant expressions of faith. I have been tempered by the harshness and tragedy that life brings all of us.
To leave this part of the story out would make the story incomplete. I find myself concerned to tell it. I have never been concerned before. Perhaps because I often tell it in the context of a sermon; at a time when my faith is high and my emotions stirred. Today I am more subdued. My pendulum seems stuck. Nevertheless, I have to tell it.
In my silent times during those days following her death I often would cry alone. I would stop and scream the whys. My daughter seemed to have focus in her life. She and her young family were doing well. She was teaching Sunday School, had a meaningful job. If you knew her story, you’d understand how thankful I was for this period of stability.
As I sat on the edge of the bed one night, not praying, I voiced my questions to God. He showed me something. My mind went back to the group that had gathered to pray before Rukhsanah’s body was taken from her mother’s arms for the last time. I knew these people well. They were my closest family, my pastor, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I looked at their faces. I knew their theology. I knew that on that ordinary day before she died if you had asked them if they believed that God not only healed but could raise the dead, they would all say yes.
I believe in healing. I have always believed in healing. As a very small child, too young to remember, I went with my parents to an Oral Roberts meeting in Brooklyn NY. We watched him on television. We sang The Great Physician hymn at church. We had a bottle of oil on the pulpit. I have been healed.
Our healing theology is balanced with an appreciation for medical science. We never considered that we shouldn’t go to the doctor. We believed God healed anyway it came. When I had Rheumatic Fever as a child, my mother knelt for hours by my bed praying for my healing, praying for the pain to stop. She also called the doctor who actually came to the house and treated me in my bed. Later, I went to the hospital.
But being raised from the dead? That is another story all together. If asked, most Pentecostals and Charismatics would loudly say Amen, Praise God of course He can raise the dead! He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Glory Hallelujah! Then they would tell you a story they heard one time about someone in Asia or Africa who was raised from the dead. They wouldn’t know if the story was true or correct but they knew by faith it happened.
The group gathered in the room that day was pretty much the same. They would have said: yes, bless God He not only heals but also can raise the dead. When faced with death, it becomes a different story. The answer seems to be different. The answer was to lovingly commit Rukhsanah into the hands of the Lord.
Perhaps we were all too numb. Perhaps we were afraid of ridicule. Perhaps we were afraid that if God didn’t answer our prayer we might be viewed as crazy or by the religious, that we didn’t have enough faith.
As I sat there, looking at the faces of the people in that room God spoke to me. He said: You didn’t ask. That was followed by a mild loving rebuke. He said: Don’t ever not ask me again.
I don’t know what God would have done if we had asked. I feel no guilt because we didn’t ask. However, I have always asked for healing since then. I’ve been in places where there is heartfelt pray for help, for guidance, for the doctor’s hand, etc. When that happens, I asked, do you mind if I pray? When I do, I pray that God would heal. How He heals, when He heals, I don’t know. I only know I have to ask.