Nikki Frittmann is a notetaker and reader/writer for students with disabilities at AUT University. She has Spina Bifida and lives in Auckland with her husband and two cats. Every second month she shares her musings with DPSN.
One day as a young, hungry University student (well, hungry on this day anyway, as I’d forgotten my lunch), a young man happened to be selling sandwiches outside. I gratefully bought one and we got talking (he and I got talking that is, not me and the sandwich). He asked about my disability, and as I’m always open to sharing about Spina Bifida with the uninitiated, I was quite happy to explain. He was Christian and as I had similar faith, we “clicked”.
Our views soon diverged, however, on the subject of whether or not I should be “healed”. He was of the opinion that God would heal me if only I asked. While I didn’t entirely disagree, I feel that “healing” will happen anyway, when I eventually get to heaven. Therefore in this life, I reasoned, I was free of any bitterness surrounding my condition (a sort of “healing” in itself, I reckon) and was prepared to accept whatever happened, disability-wise, as my destiny. We had a polite conversation, eventually getting on to other subjects, and finally parting on friendly terms, although the subject continued between us on and off for some time (although I kept enjoying his sandwiches).
To be honest, though, I left his company that day with a strange inner resentment. He hadn’t been rude or pushy in any way. He hadn’t handed me a religious tract, invited me to a healing meeting, or put me under any kind of obligation to follow up. He had merely expressed an opinion. I had argued back with a biblical story of a blind man who was brought before Jesus:
The disciples asked, “Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”. “No-one sinned,” Jesus assured them, “he was born blind so the work of God might be seen in him.”
I was trying to make the point that I felt God could achieve more through me having Spina Bifida. My debating partner pointed out that as the blind man was about to be healed, God had finished his work – as it should be with me. With no possibility of a meeting of minds on the subject, we had left it at that. Why, then, had the suggestion of healing bothered me so much? The question of whether or not one should be “healed” is quite confronting.
Since planning this blog, I’ve come across many views on the subject (it’s strange how these things often appear to you just when you need to learn about them). Some feel their disability is a part of them that makes them unique. Some are just “not into religion” and prayer, while well-intentioned, is meaningless to them. Some have felt embarrassed at being approached about the subject by strangers, while still others have said, “Sure, you can pray for me, but do it in your own time” – not wanting a public show.
One very interesting comment I came across when discussing the subject of this blog was, “People are often afraid of the unknown”. This is an important point. As someone disabled from birth, would a complete and total healing even be all I wanted it to be? For instance, would I have expectations placed on me as an able-bodied person that would be hard to live up to? There is fear also in just the act of going forward for what may, or may not, be a positive experience.
While I myself don’t have strong feelings either way about being “healed” of Spina Bifida, I felt very differently about healing more recently, during a long, frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful experience of prolonged fertility treatment. I also experienced repeated sessions with religious healers whose ministrations proved unhelpful (and who, more discouragingly, seemed to start with prayers for my legs, rather than the source of the problem I wanted addressed) carrying with it an emotional cost which, after a time, didn’t seem worth the pain. I’m sure it’s the same for many other people who seek faith healing, when the expected “healing” doesn’t eventuate.
Some time afterwards, it finally dawned on me why I felt so uneasy over my sandwich-selling friend’s enthusiasm for my healing. I’m sure he wanted what he believed was best for me. But to me, healing, by its very definition, implies brokenness. And just as I have made the point in an earlier blog that I don’t feel brave in coping daily with a disability, neither do I feel broken for having one. While it might be nice to one day wake up without Spina Bifida, I accept my current situation as it is. Maybe that acceptance is my healing.