“He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again, and he saw everything clearly.” – Mark 8:23-26
This is the only time Jesus asks the person he’s healing whether his efforts are producing the desired effect. And it’s the only time he has to try again to get the job done.
It’s a surprising detail, that it takes two tries. But what surprises me isn’t that it takes two, it’s that it takes only two. My own healing is requiring a lot more than that.
I guess I’m a tough nut to crack. I can’t tell you how many times the Healer has laid his hands on me, then asked, “Good now?”, and I’ve had to tell him no, that despite his best efforts I still can’t make out the people, only walking trees, and he’ll have to try again. Today, tomorrow, next year, the year after that.
Healing is a mysterious negotiation between divine grace and human desire, God’s power and human availability. It’s a gift and a choice. Sometimes we aren’t able to receive the gift or make the choice. Or we’re not quite ready to heal. Or we just don’t know how. And sometimes we can only take a little healing at a time.
I like to imagine that Jesus performed this two-stage healing on purpose, to let us know that healing may not fully take the first time, that it’s okay, that he’ll always be with us inquiring how it’s coming along, that he’ll always try again if we need him to, that with him there’s always more.
Those trees are still walking, Jesus. Please try again. As many tries as it takes. Amen.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.