I have the great joy and honor of being married to a massage therapist. My wife is called, yes I feel by God, to be in this field and does it on an extremely professional level. She is great in diagnosing a person’s issues and setting a course of treatment. Her knowledge astounds me and she truly is a healer.
My mind goes to her as I read this week’s lectionary text. Verse 41, “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” The word used here is haptomai which translate as touch and caresses. Jesus reaches out and through the power of touch heals a man with a debilitating and social scaring disease, leprosy. Before this man could be healed though, he had to be willing to open himself up to Christ. He placed himself in a vulnerable situation in order to receive great mercy and healing. “If you choose, you can make me clean.” He exposed himself to God and God had mercy.
Pain referrals are vital to massage therapy. It has been extremely educational for me to sit back and listen to my wife explain why I have the pain I have in my lower back. I am a person who suffers from Seated Chair Victim. Because of my long hours in front of a computer my hamstrings have shorten. When I stand up those shorten muscles pulls on my lower back. My lower back starts to hurt because those muscles are not the proper length. Through massage therapy those muscles can be lengthened back out and kept that way through daily stretching. The massage work to make this happen though is called neuromuscular massage therapy and is nothing like the spa treatment you can receive at a resort. This is work and it is painful at times as that muscle is lengthened.
What I have learned most of all is that where we feel pain is not necessarily where the problem is. My lower back hurts but that is caused by my hamstring pulling on it, not the muscles in my lower back. This is called a pain referral. To ease someone’s pain you need to find the source of the pain and it may not be in a place you think it is. One other example; if you have a ‘crick in your neck’ the knot in your muscle that may be causing this pain may actually be located in your upper back, not in your neck. As you can tell this gets complicated quick and that is why you need a properly trained massage therapist working on you to heal these issues.
When the leper is exposing himself to Jesus he is opening himself up to be healed. Jesus can sense that the disease maybe the place of the pain but not being welcomed into the community of faith is the true source of his pain. Jesus uses haptomai to get to the source of his pain and tells him to tell the priest that he is ready to be ritually clean once again.
To be truly healed by Christ we need to be willing to be open and honest about the source of our pain. You may be dealing with pain in your marriage but is that because of a lack of trust or inability to forgive? If you are having a painful time at your job is it because you’re not being paid enough or is it really that you are truly unhappy with who you have become? We need to learn where our pain referrals are so that we can honestly seek healing from the one that will show us great mercy.