Since starting nursing school I’ve done a lot of thinking about health and wellness and healing. The power of touch, and the importance of being cared for. The desperate need of a human being to be loved, and what a difference a smile or a touch can make.
A lot of various thought threads came together in my mind one night in my psychology class last term, when we were discussing a particular theory of personality and whether it was sound from a scientific point of view. I commented that perhaps the reason some things that feel right don’t lend themselves well to scientific scrutiny is that we’ve made the mistake of assuming that science and reality are the same thing, when perhaps science is actually only a subset of reality.
I was raised in a very conservative fundamentalist Christian family, so the idea of prayer and faith and healing that can’t be explained by medical science has never been hard for me to accept. And numerous scientific studies have borne out the fact that there does appear to be a significant effect on recovery as the result of prayer.
But other than church and the medical sciences I’ve always been a bit suspicious of other forms of healing. Science and church are completely segregated in my mind, as they seem to be for most Americans; anything that doesn’t fit cleanly into one of those categories is just some sort of weird mystical stuff. The more I’ve thought about it though, the more I’ve come to think maybe we’re all (science and religion) missing the boat.
I’ve always wondered what Jesus meant when he said we would do greater things than he did. Greater than raising the dead and walking on water or feeding 5000 people with one sack lunch? We’ve put men on the moon and split the atom and learned to fly. But until just recently I never thought to include technology when I considered what could possibly be greater than the things Jesus did. I simply assumed that miracles had to be compared with miracles. And technology, after all, is not miraculous. It’s just the result of our learning to use the rules and tools that God built into the universe for us to master.
Maybe that’s exactly what Jesus was talking about. Maybe healing and walking on water and multiplying food are based on some as-yet unknown (to us) principles of physics just like flying and splitting atoms and space travel. They’re ALL pretty miraculous, if you think about it. I’m sure the disciples would have been just as impressed with seeing a flying machine as they were at seeing Jesus walk on water.
Maybe when Jesus healed the sick and controlled the weather, he was tapping into a source of power that’s also available to us, something he knew was part of this world we live in just like all of the things that have allowed us to develop the technological “wonders” we now enjoy. Something that therefore could be compared with them, so that it made perfect sense for him to say that we’d do even greater things.
If that were true, would it make the miracles Jesus performed any less amazing? I don’t think so. Whether he drew on his own special powers, or used powers available to any human, they all came from the same place in the beginning – the Creator of the power gets the credit. When I switch on a light in my house, I don’t feel particularly smug at my ability to make light come forth. I just happen to know how to access what’s already there for me to use.
I think that as long as we keep trying to make reality fit into our little boxes — this is part of science, this is part of religion, and that other thing is just weird because I don’t have a box for it — we’re missing the boat. I think maybe we need to all be a little more open-minded. We all have a lot to learn.