Recently, I was reflecting with a group of people about the significant differences in the way that Jesus heals people in the gospels. We were talking about Mark's gospel, but this is consistent across all four. It's remarkable, really. Sometimes Jesus simply says the word, and a person is healed from miles away; or he tells a paralyzed man to pick up his mat and walk and the guy does. Sometimes, Jesus touches a person, or is touched by a person and they're healed. Sometimes there's spit and mud involved. Sometimes it takes more than one try, other times the healing is immediate. It's kind of an odd witness to the way Jesus moved through the world--why the disparity?
Then again, my friend pointed out, maybe it's a faithful witness to the way Jesus continues to move through the world. Maybe each instance of healing is a reminder that Jesus isn't an objective, arm's-length miracle worker, but the intimate, personal presence of God. Perhaps the truth is that each person needed to be healed differently. Maybe one person needed to be touched, while another needed to reach out. Maybe one needed spit and mud--tangible, material things--while another needed just a word. Maybe one needed time, while another needed God's saving power now. Maybe one needed his sins forgiven first, while another needed compassion and mercy.
Is this not how God is with us, with our neighbors? My faith story isn't the same as yours, because God doesn't work in general terms. Your experience of Jesus isn't the same as mine, because Jesus insists on dealing with us, healing and loving and making us whole, as individuals. Individualism has no place in the Church--we are all members of one Body (1 Corinthians 12), meant to grow and work together, for the sake of this God-beloved world. But one of the most significant claims of our faith is that each person matters, especially and infinitely to the God who made each of us and whose image we bear (Genesis 1).
I admit that I sometimes have "conversion envy." I don't always feel like my faith story is terribly interesting. I don't have a Damascus Road moment. Instead, there have been lots of smaller moments along the way--and lots of divine patience. All of which adds up to a story of salvation which is still being written; a story with cosmic value; a story of healing and repentance and forgiveness; a story all bound up in the redeeming, new-creation work of God. We do ourselves no favours when we look down the pew and wonder why God isn't doing something in our lives that we see God doing in someone else's. Because then we risk missing out on the fact that God is always dealing personally, intimately, lovingly with us. And that Jesus invites us to deal personally, intimately, lovingly with him.