Anybody ever been sick? It’s not really a trick question, just a reminder that we’ve all been sick. It’s a common, human experience that we’d all rather avoid. Sometimes, we’re sick with illness, something temporary like the flu or something chronic that stays with us for a while. Sometimes we are sick with physical trauma, an injury, something broken, or a recent surgery. Sometimes, we’re sick with emotions, or mentally, or spiritually.
We all get sick. It’s part of the human experience, along with lots of other parts of the human experience we might rather avoid. It’s one of the things that can bring us closer together and closer to what matters most.
In scriptural times, leprosy would have covered a wide range of skin disorders, not only what we consider the disease leprosy. In order to reenter society after healing, one would have to go to the temple to get approval that one was healed and able to reenter society. That’s good to know as we reflect on this passage.
Being sick, in all its ways, can be not only scary, but lonely and isolating. Leprosy/skin is an outward expression of this common experience of sick. One can’t hide what’s on the skin. For us, Covid has made lonely and isolation apparent. We’ve all had to stay home and we sometimes still do. It’s not as easy to go to work with the flu and pretend we’re not sick anymore. We’ve all done it, known we’re sick and showed up anyway, for our own “must be there” reasons or because our jobs tell us to be there (with subtlety or out right). It’s ingrained in us to prove our worth by “getting back to work”.
In a world that seems so isolating and divisive without any extra problems, staying home and being sick or self isolating can be hard. It can feel easy. But if it goes on, and on, it becomes hard, hard to be alone and, on the other end, hard to readjust socially. PAUSE. Isolating and lonely is hard, “not working” is hard, especially if we’re not careful and thoughtful about it or seeing clearly around it. We all know our relationship to this. We now know where we struggle. Where it was easy. Where we just wanted to “be done with it”.
When we’re sick, in all the many ways we can be “sick”, we want to move through it as fast as possible to “get back to normal”. To get back to work. To get back to doing the things we’ve always done in the way we’ve always done it. That’s comforting. It’s easy. It’s what we know.
But maybe being sick is about something bigger than that. Maybe it’s not about getting back to normal and back to what we’ve always done in the way we’ve always done it. Or, if it is, that we pause and think about it before we plunge right back in. Perhaps there’s a new purpose. PAUSE. Perhaps this could apply to Becoming Older, but that’s a story for another day, so I’ll just leave it there as a planted seed (maybe like a mustard seed).
Perhaps being sick is its own pause. Perhaps it’s necessary to step out and away for a time. Perhaps it’s required of us to go through hard times. Quiet times. To practice moving through things with grace. Slowing down to be in the moment. To practice the whole journey and not just the “easy” parts. Life is full of “hard parts”, maybe being sick helps us to learn to deal with the hard parts that inevitably arrive.
We can apply this to death and grief. As a whole, we’re not very good at death and grief anymore. We really want to not talk about that and get through that fast when it comes into our lives. Perhaps “being sick” is meant to help us better understand and learn to cope and move through loss and bigger pain with grace, not speed.
We live in a linear relationship with time. A plus B equals C. But does it really work that way? Sometimes, it seems that time works by its own rules. Last week feels like ages ago, but June feels like yesterday. Time plays by its own rules. A week is just a week, until we’ve got the flu or we’re recovering from illness.
We want to move through things as quickly as possible. Illness. Isolation. Jobs. Pain. Loss. PAUSE. So much so that we forget why we’re there in the first place. We often see this lesson play out weekly with our jobs. We chose to teach children, but we forgot that for the bureaucratic nonsense and can’t wait for the weekend. We choose to nurse the sick, but we forgot that in the piles of paperwork and can’t wait for vacation. We chose to feed the hungry and care for the guilty…but forgot and can’t wait for it to be over. To retire. To get to somewhere better, faster.
We rush so much that we forget to follow through on what matters. We have ten lepers (sick people) isolated from work, society, and loved ones. Ten people that want to get to the other side as quickly as possible. They don’t want to be sick. They don’t want to be alone. They don’t want to be in pain. PAUSE.
We cry out for help. To be healed. And healing happens. It always does (often not in the expected or desired way).
We rush to the temple. We rush to get back to our very important lives, to work, to family, to our “own”. Perhaps even to our good work in the world. Caring for the sick, teaching the children, protecting the vulnerable, tending the lost. We forget the lessons of the journey that came with being sick.
We want to forget. Who wants to remember being “sick” in all the ways we can be sick? Few of us. Maybe one out of ten, if that.
But…it’s part of the journey to remember. To learn. To go back and offer thanks. PAUSE. To be grateful for healing, for Grace, for Love. Perhaps this is why gratitude is so important. It slows us down and reminds us to learn and to love and to remember. Remember the Joy of being well. The Love of family and community. The Gift of Grace. To fall on our knees in thanks that we have moved through the worst of the journey. To not forget where the blessings come from. To not forget that maybe there was a bigger lesson for us to learn. Perhaps a greater work put before us to do.
Sickness, in all its ways, can isolate and disconnect us or it can bring us closer together. To one another and to Grace. Yes, there is a time for doing, but there is a time for rest. There is a time for reflection, pause, and grace. There is a time for being. There is a time for slowing down.
We have ten lepers. Ten sick people. Ten healed in body. How many stop to rest, reflect, show gratitude? How many fall at their knees and remember so that they may truly move forward with more grace…Grace? How many take the time to Give Thanks?
We all want to be the Good person. We all are the good person. We all sometimes get lost and forget. We get lost in time…”must catch up”. We get lost in excitement…”I can see my family again”. We get lost in worry…”I need to get back to work”. We get lost. Nine out of ten of us rush past and through. Nine out of ten of us have more important things to do than to Pause and remember to slow down, turn back, and Give Thanks.
Our sicknesses, our sufferings, our losses, our pains can isolate us or bring us closer to one another and closer to Grace. We simple need to slow down and Remember. Perhaps, we simple need to take one more moment for Love and Gratitude.