–Part VI: [close only counts in] Horseshoes and Hand-grenades–
Two days before the miracle, the Lord had given me a battle plan. I was to allow no enemy of pain to sneak past, but was to “shoot upon sight”, every twinge that trespassed. The Promise of the dream, the confirmations of the Word, and the power of the Spirit were to form the trench walls, my armor, and my ammo. With every assault of pain, I was to grab the shield of faith, and cry aloud, “Ankylosing Spondylitis! Get out of my body. You are a usurper; the Lord has promised me healing, and Christ Jesus commands you GO”.
It sounds utterly absurd…which is why very often, the words flew over my shoulder as I hissed them in the quiet.
Occasionally Shayne overheard me, “Are you whispering over there?”
“Um, yes. I’m afraid I’m speaking to my disease and telling it to go in the name of Jesus”
But, the strange thing was…that it did.
Almost without fail. I would speak, and instantly, as though a door had snapped shut, the pain would cease. It was electrifying to see that the name of Jesus had power, and that His instruction to me was not in vain.
But the training was relentless. It was like trying to stop a stream of rats as they flooded over a wall. Pain would strike- I would speak- it would fall- and 30 seconds later, another would rise to take its place. On and on and on, we battled each other. Hour after hour.
When I woke on August 30th to see smoke rising from the enemy camp, and found my body freed, I expected that The Lord had routed the enemy and left no survivors. Instead, He did for me as He had done for Gideon: slaying the army and bidding me give chase to the remnant in retreat. This was not to be an entirely passive miracle.
I was now experiencing 90-95% painless perfection; a miraculous gain- but healed means perfect. And this was not yet perfect. On and on, I fought the stragglers as I found them under rock and root, occasionally encountering one that had even 40% the strength of the former assaults.
After weeks, in my bewilderment, I went before the Lord. “Father, why do I still have pain? Have I made it all up? Was I really not healed?”
His answer came sure and clear in comfort and command.
First comfort: When the rains of the Great Flood ceased, it took months of released doves and days of waiting for the waters to recede. The miracle was no less real because the residue cleared slowly. And even for Christ, three nights in the tomb stood between “It is finished” and Easter morning.
Sometimes time is a scripted part of the miracle.
And, Christ, the Healer, spits on the eyes, and the sightless man sees men walking like trees. Why did it not clear on the first try? Did it fail? It cannot be. The Physician in His varied ways, reached into His bag and chose a two-part cure. Not every gift is given in full at the first, but sometimes arrives in installments.
“The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you.” Deut 7:22
“Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly)” Judges 3:1-2
When Israel entered the land of Promise, they crossed over the Jordan on the dry ground of a pure miracle, wrought by the hand of God as they looked passively on. But the Land into which He delivered them was still filled with giants and foes. The second half of the miracle would see God’s hand working through their own. They were cast in a leading role, participants in possessing the Promise.
Canaan would be cleared slowly, piece by piece, together: the Lord and the people, as brothers fought bravely on behalf of one another.
It was true for me also. I had crossed the Jordan by mighty miracle, but the Lord had left a remnant of giants in the land that could only be defeated by the community of faith, fighting as one in prayer. I would not be healed in any other way.
This was the Lord’s instruction: Every time I felt pain, I was to approach someone for prayer. No matter how many times in a day it happened.
I was to expand what I had learned in single combat. It was no longer enough to fight on alone. The war would not be won by one woman, but by the Lord working in conjunction with many.
And so, it began with a handful of friends.
We lit up with the Facebook circuits with messages back and forth: me pleading, sometimes multiple times in a single afternoon; they responding with words of encouragement, pleas to the Lord, verses that He impressed on their spirits. They watched and prayed into the night, they pleaded as if my pain were their own.
My home group, my church family, my friends: each was the site of a victorious battle of the Lord.
Seven times I approached Yawheh’s children for prayer, and seven times my pain receded by evening- often within the hour. Not just I, but the whole community of faith around me was being taught the art of war. I have never seen the Lord work so clearly.
The parallel was unmistakably clear: the relentlessness of battle against physical pain was an outward illustration of the constancy of battle against sin and darkness. As often as I had to pray against Pain, I had to pray against doubt, fear, self-centeredness, bitterness, malice, and the like. I needed the training. These arms have been a little flabby, and this heart a little less than resilient. I am no Rambo.
But the days for lessons did not go on without end, and the Healer didn’t choose just one method. The concentrated arena in which we had battled so many “demons” was not there forever. After several weeks, there came a day when the strategy of commanding the pain to flee no longer held sway, and I was cast solely on the prayers of the people. And then there came a day when it seemed that even the prayers of the people did no observable good.
Doubt began to set in, and I forgot the warning of Narnia “Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” As October and November rolled in, it seemed that even the prayers of the saints would not win the war against the last outposts of pain, and I grew disturbed.
To you who are on the email list and receive these updates the morning after they’re posted: Yesterday’s “selah” was an act of battle, on the order of what you just read. Fighting the demons of fear and doubt was so fierce that it stole my voice. Try as I might, the words would not order themselves on the page. So, I put down my pen for a night and picked up my sword. Today, I’ve returned angry and ready. Thanks for hanging in.