A few times a year, our church weaves into the mass a time of “anointing the sick.” Anyone who is hurting, in any way, is invited to come forward. The priest and deacon take their time. They lay their hands on the person’s head and they anoint the person’s forehead with oil. They speak a prayer privately as the congregation sings and “holds the space.”
It’s a time of bodies being blessed. It’s a time of remembering – the fragility of the body, the tenacity of hope, and the need for community. It’s a time of having the courage to step forward, announcing with their silent but visual presence that one wants to be healed…and surrendering.
This past Sunday, we had the anointing of the sick.
I sat there watching as folks from the pews got up and stepped forward. I wanted to go up. I wanted, wanted, wanted to. But I didn’t.
I never do. I never stand up and walk to the front of the church. And I’m sad about that.
No, I don’t have cancer or a tumor; I don’t struggle with addiction; I don’t have a mental illness. But I do desire what so many of us do — to be held and healed, to have our brokenness acknowledged and seen. Whatever that brokenness is that we all have.
You don’t have to believe that there is healing (which is different from “cure”) going on with the “laying on of hands.” Healing happens in having the courage to acknowledge and say, “I feel broken” and we welcome that brokenness with the tenderness of a mother comforting a hurting child.
Healing happens when we have the courage to be vulnerable and share our brokenness with another person.
Healing happens when we finally proclaim and ask for what we have longed for – maybe for decades. Healing happens when we finally say “YES” to that longing – yes to its presence (and residence) within us, yes to the Divine forces that have so desired to hold that longing with us and soothe it.
Healing happens when we ask for what we need and fold into the arms that can and want to hold us.
Maybe me not getting up in front of the congregation this past Sunday was then a prompt to now go before my husband and my mom, two of the most beautiful, loving people in my life and say, “Hold me, please. Just because.” I’ve been too strong lately. Too “independent.” Too “do it on my own.” I need to acknowledge that I feel broken at times and be ok with being vulnerable and broken before another. And allow them to hold me.
Like so many of us, I often do a lot of the “holding.” I’ve been great at that my whole life. I do it for a profession. But I can easily get caught up in being the one “listening” and “about the other person.” I, too, need to have the courage to ask for someone to do the holding. And I am blessed to have a mom and a husband that are awesome at that. And long to do just that – hold me.