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“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As a young adult I worked as a live-in houseparent at a home for children in foster care. After living with and caring for a house full of girls who had experienced early childhood trauma, I spent an hour with a college friend and former ministry colleague.
“You’re just not the same, Nicole. At all,” he all but mourned.
“You just aren’t happy-go-lucky anymore. You seem more… you seem… you seem more… realistic. Less optimistic.”
His words stung. Not because they were incorrect. Though unintentionally accusatory, his words were accurate. My worldview had been impacted by pain and suffering.
During that year, I had learned how devastating life could be for children who were no less deserving of a happy home than I had been as a child. As I’d attempted to love children from hard places, I’d been punched in the face both figuratively and literally. My car had been vandalized, my personal items had been stolen, and I had once dislocated my shoulder commandeering a broomstick from a child who was threatening to beat my coworker with it.
Many nights I cried myself to sleep. All of my best ideas had been exhausted and I was hopeless.
I had failed many times in an area I’d once considered myself strong in… loving others.
My friend’s words hurt because his tone implied he couldn’t accept the tainted me.
His words were words of rejection.
Having been in ministry together, my friend’s rejection also felt like the Church’s rejection- a shattering blow for me.
But then I read Mark 2 and began to process more clearly. I wasn’t crushed by my friend’s discomfort with me or even by the difficulty I had fitting into most Western faith communities since experiencing (relatively) significant pain.
I was upset because I’d lost myself. My friend wanted to get the old Nicole back and I rather missed her too.
Over twelve months, foster care had already exposed many of my most glaring defects.
Once I began to consider those defects, I understood myself more clearly than I ever had before. It turned out the once fun-loving, seemingly carefree, encouraging, college Nicole who traveled on weekends to work with youth group kids, and who loved to bake was also a Pharisee.
Because, the Pharisees were not “healthy.” They were merely unaware of their disease. Their judgment of themselves as worthy, their constant striving toward proving their own worthiness, and their judgment of the obviously sick as unworthy, distracted them from realizing their own sickness.
That was me.
As I’m now aware of my sickness, I realize the Church I had once been so comfortable in had a tendency to seek comfort before seeking Jesus.
And I had been unaware because I had been living in luxury.
Unknowingly, I idolized comfort and expected good things to happen to me if I made the right choices. With my mouth I would say I didn’t believe in the prosperity gospel. Yet, I was always surprised when obedience resulted in pain, loss, and conflict.
Without meaning to, I’d dismissed Jesus’ words in Mark 8, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Now I know better. Being obedient doesn’t eliminate the struggle. It intensifies it.
When I walk in obedience, my sickness is constantly exposed.
But it’s okay.
I know a Good Doctor.