Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Wounded Healer?

In my spiritual journey and ministry there have been many people who have greatly influenced and inspired me, but perhaps only a handful whose impact has been such as to fundamentally shape my faith understanding, my theology and my practice of ministry. One day I will no doubt say something about some of these folks, but undoubtedly one of them was the late Reverend Ian Cowie, who was for many years the chaplain of the Christian Fellowship of Healing.

Ian's writings and what he said at several conferences on healing gave me deep insights into the healing ministry, his friendly support and encouragement (and I still have some of his letters - treasured and sometimes re-read) kept me going through some dark times, his patient listening, grace-filled understanding and sensitive prayer upheld me when I was in need.

On several occasions Ian was kind enough to accept my invitation to lead worship and preach in one of my previous churches, often around the theme of healing and usually he and I would share in ministering to those who asked for prayer during or after the service.

Good times, fondly remembered!

Yet this man who was always ready to pray with others for their healing, who would gladly recount answers to prayer and who generally promoted this ministry, was himself profoundly deaf. I often wondered (but never got around to asking) if he had ever asked for healing for his deafness!

I do not understand the mystery of Christian healing. I engage in this ministry out of obedience. I have seen prayer answered in ways that I can only describe as remarkable - even miraculous. More often I have seen prayers unanswered in any obvious way - and I know not why.

But something about Ian Cowie's faithful and effective ministry allied to his obvious and restricting disability for some reason inspires me and encourages me. And perhaps all the more since I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

For whatever reason I have never felt it right or natural to seek prayer for healing for my MS. Perhaps that betrays something of a faith inadequacy in me, I don't know. But whenever I have had doubts about praying for others while I continue to have an incurable (or - at least - an as yet uncured!) condition, I remember Ian Cowie.

This week we were/are to have a special focus on healing ministry in St Cuthbert's. Last night a discussion was planned for the Kirk Session meeting, this Sunday the theme of morning worship is healing and (for the first time) ministry and prayer will be offered following morning service and next Tuesday we are holding a 'seminar' on this ministry... and wouldn't you know it - for the first time in over a year I have been sufficiently unwell these past few days to have to back out of things and take it easy. So the discussion did not occur at the Kirk Session last night, and who knows how I will be come Sunday?

Some might say it is the work of the Devil!

Some might say that God is trying to tell me/us something.

Some might say it is mere coincidence (and these same people might also claim that apparent 'healings' are no more than coincidences!)

Some might say that the decision to have a focus on 'healing' triggered something deep within my psyche which has had a psychosomatic impact!

Now, I do not wish to simply (still less rudely) dismiss any of these views. They are all possible (well - in some form at any rate!) But I don't know that I buy into any of them.

When I think of Ian Cowie, I think of a wounded healer and I am struck by the fact that I was always far more likely to approach him for prayer, ministry, counsel, advice than many others who seemed to be robustly well, healthy and 'have it all together'! And I never came away from him without feeling that I had been touched in some way by God's Spirit.

And then there is Paul's 'thorn in the flesh'!

Perhaps it is not a bad thing for those who minister to be at some level 'broken' people... and I manage to be that in very many respects!

As the Lord said to Paul 'My grace is sufficient... my power is made perfect in weakness'

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