Beginning to Stand Up

March 2, 2017

We begin the season of Lent this week. For forty days, Christians all over the world will prepare themselves for the passion of Jesus, his death and resurrection.  Some will fast; some will give up desserts; some will pray more; some will be sucked into consumer-driven sales and other ways to instill guilt instead of introspection.

I offer a view for the Lenten season based on a familiar Biblical story from Luke 13: 10-17. Here a woman has been crippled for 18 years and was bent over and “quite unable to stand up straight.” Right then and there, we identify with her. Many of us know of long-term illness, incurable disease, incredible suffering. Some of us struggle ourselves; others of us have family members who are burdened. Professional staff at Prairie View daily see clients who cannot “stand up straight.” They have a diagnosis that means pain, emotional trauma and long-term complications. Management Team deals with complicated licensure requirements and regulations that cripple finances and consume precious time. There are systems of stigma that keep the mentally ill looking down instead of standing up. Yes, we connect with this woman who was hurting.

The story in Luke goes on to tell of Jesus seeing this woman and pronouncing her healed, touching her with power. Immediately she could stand up! She shouts with joy! And why not? This is a great day. It seems that speaking a word brought healing—and I’m convinced that therapists, counselors, doctors and nurses at PV can – and are – speaking words of healing:

“You will find a way.”

“You are not alone.”

“I will listen.”

“There is hope.”

I also think a hug, a handshake, an embrace, a smile and a hearty laugh are all ways to bring healing to someone who is bent over.

The snag in the story is the criticism from the religious folks. How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath! How dare Jesus break the law! How dare he touch a woman! Sometimes our systems of healthcare bring barriers to healing. Sometimes the laws of our time, the compliance issues, the courts, the structures of healthcare bring snags to patient care. Do we find creative solutions? Do we plea for mercy? Do we sit at legislative tables and voice concerns? Do we draft policies that provide better service? How do we face the “snags” of life and the criticism of the powerful? Prairie View strives to bring healing and hope in the spirit of Jesus, the healer.

Finally, this story teaches the woman and the crowd that healing takes place. We do not have to be bent over forever. Being a community of healing—even in the 21st century in Kansas—is possible and needed. We work, we study, we pray, we organize, we advocate. Together, those who are bent over can rise.  May the season of Lent be a time of healing.

Dorothy Nickel Friesen, a retired pastor and Mennonite regional minister, is a former Prairie View board member. She lives in Newton and is volunteering in various justice projects.