Once upon a time, Laura went to see a Faith Healer

Years ago, at 29, I was tired from holding up the disaster I called "my life." Thinking back, I was "doing" all the right things, and it was exhausting.  I was reading books on self help, positive thinking, healing wounds, how to find the work you love, etc etc.  I was working out regularly, attending lectures on angels and the spiritual dimension, taking college classes so I could figure out "what I want to do when I grow up."  I was conscious of my co-dependence and I was consciously facing it as I learned to live alone. I'd even found my spiritual community (I thought) and regularly connected with "like-minded" people.

But I was still feeling adrift without a rudder, heart-broken, and very lonely...and oh so tired.The quaint but often misguided adage -- "when Life hands you lemons, make lemonade" -- wasn't working. Not if I were totally honest.  In the privacy of my empty apartment, I'd face myself and admit I was still not one of those "happy people, out there!" that I envied.  I'd sampled everything on the Self Help buffet line, and nothing worked for me.  After binging on self-pity, anger at God, and wine, I'd pick myself up and try again.  I'll work harder, I'd vow, to think positive, connect, improve myself, "forgive," etc etc. (Oh my...there are so many lessons about the ego here we could go into, but, lucky you!, that's not why I'm writing today.)

For several months, I visited a psychic lady I met at a bookstore.  I gave her money, and she spoon fed me hope.  One day, our professional relationship took a step towards friendship.  So hungry for attention -- and secretly hopeful that God had finally sent me an angel to deliver "the answer" I was searching for -- my heart quickened when she invited me to go with her to West Seattle to visit an Hispanic healer.  He had a reputation and was making a "rare" appearance in the states, she claimed. I knew she mostly just needed a ride, and she knew enough about me to know I had time on my hands and a working car.  But, like a hungry stray dog, I was happy to get a bone, so I agreed to pick her up later that afternoon.

The setting sun blinded us as we crossed the West Seattle bridge.  Soon we arrived at a small nondescript building, no bigger than a good-sized house in the middle of what seemed to be a poorer, working class neighborhood.  Its clapboards needed paint, and the lawn was overgrown.  As we parked along the side of the street, I felt my heart beat faster in anticipation.  Many other cars, most of them older and beat up, surrounded the little, unassuming building.  My friend and I walked in through the open door, and, as we crossed the threshold, I felt like we’d been transported to another time in old Mexico.   

Whole families of elderly, the very young, and working age adults had staked out temporary homes among the pews. I suddenly understood the term “congregation” for the air was relaxed and real and everyone seemed to feel free to be themselves in a way that made me aware of how foreign that was for me. I’m quite sure there could not have been any actual chickens milling around, pecking for seeds among the feet of the young and old, but I see them in my memory, and the colorful, hacienda-like atmosphere certainly invited them.  I felt like the only guiding rule of etiquette was Live and Let Live.  

A part of me gave an involuntary sigh of release.   Remembering my early years in a small town Lutheran church, scratchy in my yellow polyester dress and too-small black patent-leather shoes, something in me melted a little to know that little bored and restless kids were not getting chastised for slumping in their pews here. In fact, kids of all sizes were roaming around without boundaries, like my imagined chickens, while grandparents tried to slow them down to give them sandwiches or hugs.  Mothers and fathers looked on with eyes that seemed to see something very far away.  More than the old people, they seemed to be weighted down with heavy troubles and were letting the music lull them into an overdue rest.   
I was relieved to find our healer looked normal, without any flowing robe or white suit with jewelry or unfashionably big hair.  He seemed middle-aged to me, but the warmth in his eyes and smile were deceptively young.  He sat at a piano in front and sang in Spanish as he played, gazing all the while at the souls who'd come to him for miscellaneous miracles. As the only Gringos, my friend and I tried to skulk into seats at the back of the church. I startled, half sheepishly/half honored to watch this man acknowledge us with a kind look of ‘hello’ and then begin to repeat each phrase of his Spanish hymn in English for us.  I verified with a quick glance around the room we were the only two non-Spanish speakers in the audience. He was singing in our language just for us. 

As the music continued, a part of me began to wonder if this was all there was – perhaps he heals through this music, I thought.  I relaxed a little deeper.  

Suddenly, however, our healer stood from his piano bench and moved to the center of the alter. Like a group dance that each person in the church knew well, the room around me began to shift.  Another pianist sat down on the piano bench in our healer’s place so that hardly a note was skipped, and as he began to play, the congregation left their pew seats to get in line at the front of the church.  My heart began to pump faster in anticipation of what would happen.  One by one, the very old, the middle age, and the young, went up to the healer who waited with an unusual authority at the front. As I wondered what people were lining up for, in short order, our healer instructed the room – first in Spanish, then again in English for my friend and myself – to tell Jesus through him what it was they asked for, so that he could bless us from Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be healed.

My heart sunk.
            Considering how much healing my heart needed, you would think my heart would have done something, anything, more grateful.  But all I could think of how to get out of the situation without offending a nice piano player and a kind group of slightly gullible Hispanic families.  

Those were fleeting thoughts, however, as the unfolding scene around me drew me in, and I watched myself and everyone else like I was at a movie.  I was amazed to watch the morphing of each person who made his/her way down the aisle; with each step they seemed to rifle a little deeper through their pockets digging out all their worries, pains, and fears until they were only barely visible behind huge armloads of suffering by the time they reached the alter. I could not understand their words to our healer, but suffering is Universal and I understood their meaning.  They were singing a common refrain of humanity throughout time:  Please, heal this illness in myself, in my husband, or in my child; help my husband find work so we can feed our kids and pay our mortgage; help my son or daughter overcome this addiction; remove this crippling arthritis so I will not be a burden to others; please, answer this personal crisis to which my family and I can find no earthly solution.   

Our healer listened to each one, then touched him or her on the forehead while he turned his face upward and said a quick prayer with eyes closed to the Holy Spirit.  On cue, the person in front of him seemed to lose all control and fall in a heap into the waiting arms of a helper behind him.  My sunken heart did a somersault. It was my biggest nightmare.
The music played on, and the apparent healings continued.  People of all shapes and sizes continued to drop to the floor, often with deep sobs as others rushed to help them return to their seats. Our healer stood strong, smiling gently over these “healings” which I assumed he would say were coming from the Holy Spirit and not an over-active collective imagination.
As the crowd began to thin out and the line began to shorten, my friend – seemingly un-phased by the drama around us – eagerly made her way to get in line, and I, not wanting to create a scene of any kind, followed.  My heart beat faster as we inched forward, and I began to play out various save-face scenarios – When my turn was up, I could look quickly down and walk to the side without being blessed, I thought. Or maybe I could play along and just drop to one knee and call it good.  My silly self-conscious drama took center stage in my mind, and I ignored most of the events taking place around me.  But as I neared the top of the line, I saw something astounding. 

As before, our healer looked deeply into the eyes of the man before him, eyes which told many stories of pain, fear, and hardship.  After listening to the person’s heartfelt request with what seemed like a genuine empathy, our healer placed his hand on the person’s forehead, and then turned his own face upward to offer his blessing to a higher power in prayer. The phenomenon I saw when I was only two people away, however, made all the theatrics seem suddenly more real, if not understandable.  As our healer lifted his face up in blessing, a force seemed to explode through him – it struck like a colorful bolt of lightening, lighting up his aura, entering through his forehead, down through his hand, and into the forehead of the person in front of him. I could hardly believe what I had seen.
My friend’s turn came next, and I watched with anticipation at what would happen, still awestruck by the scene I’d witnessed.  But our healer, almost like a benevolent chameleon, adapted to her "Gringo" style. He smiled gently, they exchanged some quiet words I could not hear, he said a quiet prayer, and she walked quietly back to her seat.  No lightening, just kindness.

I was next.  

As I stood there before him, I thought he seemed at once ordinary and extraordinary.  For a split second, I worried about what he would know about me if he really could “see.” But before I could obsess, a strong feeling of kindness enveloped my monkey-mind worries.   I was before him now, and he looked deeply into my eyes.  I suddenly felt like a six-year-old child, standing disheveled in front of a parent, knees scraped and face dirty, needing approval and hardly daring to hope that he would offer it.  He continued to look into my eyes with a gentle, but penetrating gaze that seemed to see right into my eyes, past my retinas, into my brain, down my brainstem, and into my heart.  I stood their mute, unable to think of any words at all, as his gaze probed around my aorta searching for my question.  

 He seemed to know, and not care, that I was speechless.  Words, I guess, were an unneeded formality for him. After a short pause, he said smiling, almost as though he were pleased with himself for the quick discovery...(or maybe because it was such a benign request compared to all the illness, death and destruction)...“You just want to know your Purpose.”  My whole body and soul gonged. He blessed me gently, without the drama and the fireworks, and I returned to my seat, quiet and stunned.  A quiet Peace filled me, as though all the childish clamoring inside me saying “look at me!” had dissipated.  

I took my seat.  And my blank mind, the one that had been struck by Peace, continue to resonate for the last moments of the service.  For a few moments, I couldn't remember what the heck I was there for. I had no problems...I had no thoughts, even.

No thoughts?  The thought of no thoughts rang some alarm bell, at which point my egoic monkey-mind quickly tried to grab the controls of my attention again. Such a fleeting glimpse of Peace, and now I began to bounce from thought to thought to thought.  Phew.  What the heck was that?

As I drove home, my friend and I made just enough small talk to avoid appearing rude, and I tried to "understand" my afternoon.  By the time I was back on I-5, I'd taken stock of the situation rationally.  So he may have some psychic gifts, maybe, but if he’s really a great healer, why hadn’t he healed me by giving me the goddamn answer?! 

It took me another decade and a half to realize that he did. :)


  1. Ah Laura, this is wonderful. So glad you remember it. Jesus always answers, and it's been my experience that each answer just keeps on being revealed as time passes. You've found a beautiful way to share that. I love your writing. :-)


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