22: Luminous

22: Luminous

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

Luminous

God enters by a private door into each individual.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a miracle as “An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” I have no doubt that I experienced a miracle.

I began attending services at an African evangelical church because some women who heard me sing at a multi-cultural festival suggested that I’d really enjoy their music. I had reservations. As a child, I experienced religious abuse and corruption that left me suspicious.

Paradoxically, I’m passionate about gospel music, and have no issues with the words of most songs. They’re pure, loving and uplifting. I’ve even given gospel music concerts. When I was the leader of a popular club band, I usually ended the night by singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and asked the audience to drink responsibly and drive safely.

As I’ve sung with African-Canadian and African-American groups, I had expectations of what this church would be like. A strong director leading people with beautiful voices in soul-stirring gospel music. A passionate sermon. I had an idea what “going to church” was about. Or thought I did.

I did not expect services that lasted three to six hours, mainly consisting of dance and song. Or the phenomenon of “speaking in tongues.” I listened, watched and sang along as people danced and then fell on their knees, praying. Some rolled on the floor and shook. I was moved and uneasy at the same time. It turned out that the churches I’d previously attended were quite moderate.

Church members welcomed me, and asked why I had pulled up a padded chair. Were the pews not comfortable? I explained that I’d survived assault and torture sessions that left me with a spinal crush injury, fractures and ruptured disks. I had mornings where walking was difficult. My left shoulder joint had formed into a viciously sharp point that jabbed into the muscle when I raised my arm, and the ligament between my shoulder and elbow was permanently stretched. I had about fifty percent use of my arm.

My ability to play guitar, piano, carry items and some days, even dress myself, was limited. A small amount of pressure “over the limit” caused my shoulder to dislocate, scaring onlookers and necessitating assistance. Sleep was traumatically interrupted any time I rolled to the left. I was in constant pain. My condition was inoperable. I also had chronic anemia, in a form that no mineral supplementation helped. I was exhausted from years of my body being unable to maintain a healthy level of red blood cells. I’d been to Emergency several times. I felt hopeless.

One churchwoman took charge. In the middle of the service, she stood behind me and wrapped her arms around me. Loudly, she began to pray. She asked Jesus to heal my battered body and relieve my pain. The music, prayers and dancing around me lifted me to a higher level. Other people joined in her personal prayer for me. When the altar call came, I approached, singing along and weeping with the beautiful “Softly and Tenderly.”

Church members prayed in this manner for me twice more.

I still felt qualms about joining a religion, and pulled away. Such phrases as “washed in the blood of the lamb” sounded violent and off-putting to me. Wasn’t Jesus supposed to be gentle? Church political views were a significant bone of contention.

Shortly after this experience, I had my semiannual medical checkup. I always dreaded the doctor relating my test results, as they invariably showed my body deteriorating further. “Inoperable” is also a depressing thing to hear.

My doctor’s eyes gleamed as she pulled her chair next to mine. For the only time in the five years I’ve known her, we sat side by side, knees brushing. She pointed out my test results with excitement. “Your blood count is perfect,” she said, tapping my chart.

“Do you mean the numbers have gone up?” I asked.

“No, I mean they’re in the perfect range. Your blood is perfect. This is astonishing. Now here’s the other thing,” she said, and pointed to my new CAT scan results. My shoulder and arm were also perfect. Even the stretched ligament, for which medical science has no repair, had healed. One of my three spinal fractures had knitted.

“It was the faith healing!” I blurted. I outlined my church experience. My normally cynical mind didn’t have an iota of doubt.

My doctor said that whatever it was, it was amazing.

“It’s a miracle,” I said.

She smiled and got up to leave. “Whatever it is, enjoy it.”

I drove home feeling elated and confused. How could this happen as the result of a few visits to a church simply for the music—and which I no longer attended?

In my bedroom, I spontaneously dropped to my knees in the pose my mother had taught me as a child. I bowed my head and asked in wonder, “Jesus, how did you do that?”

I felt a warm, benevolent presence surround me. A deep male voice said, “I washed your blood with mine.”

As I kneeled with eyes closed, I had a vision of Him crucified. His blood fell directly on me, and became luminous. The glowing red substance, half blood, half light, entered my veins and circulated throughout my body. It healed where I was ready to heal. I saw its relationship to the healing with Universal Light I’d learned from my grandmother, which I’d also rejected for a time.

I was still afraid to raise my left arm. I’d once experienced an embarrassing public scene. Disability can be lonely. While in the pool doing my routine therapy, I saw a group of people playing ball and forgot myself. For a moment, I was whole. I tried to volley the ball. Pain doubled me over, screaming.

Lifeguards, pool patrons and a doctor gathered around me. To this day, I remember it vividly. The humiliation was nearly as bad as the pain.

I went back to church one more time. Hesitantly, I started to raise my left arm in the gesture of praise I’d seen others perform. At shoulder height, I hesitated again, then gritted my teeth and raised my arm straight up. No pain. In fact, it felt great. I waved my hand.

“That’s what your arm is for,” I heard in my ear.

Jesus appeared to me again soon after. I was in crisis with my housing situation; nasty landlords who entered my home without notice. My PTSD symptoms were over the moon. He stood in the doorway of my bedroom with crossed arms. His linebacker shoulders filled the space. His large brown eyes were filled with compassion. “You are safe,” He said emphatically. “I’m here.”

I knew He was talking about not only the present situation, but my past.

I still live with considerable pain. But having the full use of my arm and no longer suffering with anemia has eased my stress considerably. I can ride a bike for a few minutes, a cherished activity my physiotherapist had forbidden.

When I’m ready, when I feel I can remain unstressed by church politics and doctrine, I’ll go back and ask for help to produce more miracles.

~R. Stone

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