Monday, 6 January 2014

Nothing too small

Yesterday was my first day back after a rather difficult Christmas after first nursing a bad back, followed by a painful condition in the heel of my left foot which left me unable to put any weight on it - a kind of tennis elbow only in my foot - and then to cap it all for the last four-five days I have had a very uncomfortable and unpleasant bloated stomach which made it difficult to eat and digest anything put into it, solid or liquid. This was so reminiscent of the problems I had earlier last year - remember good old H.pylori helicobacter - that I thought I would have to return to the doctors for another dose of antibiotics etc.

But it struck me in bed lying awake at 3.45 on the Saturday night that among all the things I had not tried to cure it, was the one thing that lay closest to hand, prayer. Before Christmas I had enthusiastically commended a Prayer Chain and been touched by stories of the blessings of Prayer Shawls and prayed for others to be healed and yet I had not put any of this into practice in my own life. Why? Not sure. Perhaps because in comparison to some of the people I had been praying for a distended stomach and iffy digestive system seemed small fry when you are calling on God to heal cancer, or deliver someone from crippling depression? Or maybe it was because in some bizarre and subconscious way I felt that it was selfish of me to pray for myself when as a Vicar I should be praying for others? Or maybe it was much more straight forward than that and that I didn't really believe that God can and does heal?

That last part is worth lingering on and in some ways relates to my last blog about a one-tier universe? In my head I believe God is present in His creation, His Church and His people but not enough (!) to get too involved in anything other than the big stuff. Which creates a sort of hybrid of the one and two tier universe where God is not totally absent from this universe but not totally present either, or if He is at all it is conditional on the big issue or the big problem. In other words you can understand that He wants to cause revivals, save souls and calm storms, but colds, bad stomachs and financial problems? Come on.

But God is a God who points to a child and says "if you want to be in my kingdom become like this" (Mark 10:13-14). Who provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:25-34) and says that he is familiar with the smallest details of my haircut (Luke 12:7). Who even healed Peter's mother-in-law of a heavy cold/fever (Luke 5:38-39). Who told us that if we were anxious about anything - by which he means any-thing - we were to take it joyfully to him in prayer (Phil 4:6,7). So who was I to set our relationship on another footing and call all the shots?

The outcome of all this was that I turned onto my back, laid both hands on my stomach, and prayed that God would heal it and enable me to sleep. And he did. Slowly my stomach relaxed under the touch of my hands and after a few more minutes of prayer was settled and comfortable enough for me to turn over and fall fast asleep again. In the morning it was a lot better although still a little uncomfortable and so when went to receive Holy Communion in the 9.00 service I prayed again and asked that bread and wine - Christ's body and blood - would interact with mine and bring me further healing and wholeness. And over the course of the day that is exactly what happened. For the first time in days I was able to enjoy my Sunday dinner and enjoy a light tea without any unpleasant side effects. As I type this my stomach is still a little fragile but 100% better and, I believe, on the mend.

This then is my first lesson for of the New Year: Nothing is too small for the God who is involved in His creation and who longs to be included in our daily lives (He does after all invite us to pray for daily bread (Matthew 6:9-13) and to pray at all times (1 Thess 5:17).

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