By Emily Wikner
I got the letter three days before I boarded the plane to Peru. It was from one of my closest friends. With little explanation, she told me that our relationship was unhealthy for her and that she needed to heal so she was leaving our relationship. She said she no longer wanted any contact with me. We had never spoken prior about this issue.
I spent most of the night in and out of tears.
My heart broke to know that I had unintentionally hurt my friend so badly that she felt the need to break all ties with me. It horrified me to know I could inflect such damage upon another human being, especially one who was so close to me. Even though I had other friends to support me, I was terrified that if I showed them too much of me, I would burden them and they would leave me too.
I spent those first weeks in Peru overwhelmed by the sorrow from the loss of this friendship. Negative thoughts like “I’m not a good friend” and “What if all my close friends secretly hate me?” became regular occupants in my mind. The thought of reaching out and forming new friendships in Peru scared me because this event made me believe that I am an awful person to have a relationship with.
In the middle of it all, I cried out to God for healing. I prayed bold prayers for reconciliation. Yet nothing changed and my soul still ached. I began to wonder if God even wanted me to heal. Mentally, I knew that God offers healing, but his healing never seemed to seep into the darkest, driest parts of my heart. I quietly resolved that my problems weren’t important enough for the Almighty to examine and I accepted that the Healer had overlooked me.
At the same time, I was reading through the gospel of Luke in Spanish for my personal devotions, and everything changed when I got to chapter five.
I had read the story of Jesus healing the man with leprosy many times before and I knew what to expect: a leper falls at Jesus’s feet and begs him for healing, Jesus says that he is willing, and immediately the man’s leprosy goes away. Classic Jesus miracle. But the Spanish version reads a little differently.
Instead of Jesus saying he’s willing to heal the leper, he says he wants to heal the leper.
Cue me crying my eyeballs out in Spanish.
The phrase “be willing” always made me think of a begrudging yes. I’m willing to do the dishes. I’m willing to clean the bathroom. I’m willing to wake up early for an opening shift after a long night. I may be willing, but none of those things are things I inherently desire.
I realized I carry the attitude of my willingness into my understanding of God’s willingness. Whenever I ask for a good gift or guidance or straight up desperate help, I often don’t get my hopes up in case that God is unwilling to show up for me in the way that I want.
But in my season of healing the heartbreak of a broken friendship, reading the words, “I want to heal you,” absolutely had me undone.
Like, God wants to heal me? It’s not just some burdensome task he does after I nag him? It’s something he’s eager to do, just as much as I’m eager to drink tea or go skiing or watch the new season of “Jane the Virgin”? He wants to take all of my pain and reverse it and make me new again?
I can’t say there’s a happy ending to this situation six months after I received that letter. I still have no contact with my friend. No reconciliation has happened and I don’t know if it ever will. Some days, I still ache from her choice to leave our friendship and from knowing I unintentionally caused her emotional harm. But in the messy middle of this healing process, I have come to know God as the God who wants to heal me.