Lisa Nichols Hickman: A cross more expansive than Blue Cross; an answer bigger than Aetna

When Christians look to Jesus for direction in matters of health, there is less to learn from red ink and more from his relationship with other people.

As the church observes Lent, American health care reform is at a standstill. On his journey to the cross, Jesus went out of his way to heal. Each week of Lent, Lisa Nichols Hickman will ask, "Is there any balm in Gilead?"

“Mom, I need a band-aiddd…”

This cry rings out through our household at least once a week. Often there is a precious band-aid in the box. Occasionally there is not. Then I have to rely on a word of comfort and a kiss. But even those don’t have the healing powers of that elusive band-aid. Guilt descends. “How come we don’t have any band-aiddds?” I could go into the litany of responsibilities that keep two parents working full-time in churches and raising a family, but what seven year old understands that list? She needs the band-aid. On her knee. Now.

I dread the day I have to explain that our nation has used so many ‘band-aids’ in our health care policy that now the box is empty and there are thousands of children who will go to bed without the care they need because their families lack insurance.

Policy-wise, band-aids are not enough.

When my daughters have a wound, they want me to show them my love by bringing that band-aid to the scratch and scrapes. They don’t want empty words; they often don’t even want the healing kiss. Show, don’t tell, is the posture they take when they cry out.

Ironically, we live in a nation where the “Health and Wealth Gospel” is more appealing than the healing offered by Jesus. In terms of healing, Jesus was a “show, don’t tell” kind of guy. While Jesus often spoke in the area of wealth and money, his approach in the area of healing was simply to show. When Christians look to Jesus for direction in matters of health, our knowledge comes less in the ‘red words’ of Christ depicted in certain Bibles and much more often in his relationship with others.

Those relationships were complicated as Christ moved among the sick and the Sadducees, the demon-possessed and the law-obsessed, the Jews and the gentiles, the leprous and Lazarus, the often clueless disciples and the clued-in outsiders. Since there is little red-ink in Jesus-speak about health care, we have to explore the questions raised within those relationships. Just as Jeremiah asked, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” the actions of Christ raise questions for those who observe his posture as a healer.

•Is there a faith that saves?

•Is there another alternative to our current system?

•Is there anything more compassion?

•Is it possible to see the face of Christ on each person in need of healing?

The answer to the above questions is “Yes.” The blessing of this “Yes” is balm for the wounded soul. Whether that soul is the one who has prayed and was told their prayer was not “faithful” enough, or the one who is a long-term caregiver overwhelmed by the health care system, or a doctor tired of the constraints on her care-giving, or the one ailing in the hospital bed; the balm of Christ reaches the most vulnerable and exhausted. The balm of Christ is better than any band-aid.

I’m tired of band-aids. I’m hoping for a cross more expansive than Blue Cross. I’m hoping for an answer bigger than Aetna. I have a long list of those I love who need healing and help with their finances in the midst of their illness. If you too are hoping for another way, and if you care about the direction Christ points us in, then hum along with the song, “There is a balm in Gilead . . . ” and pray for healing.

Lisa Nichols Hickman is a Presbyterian Pastor and writer. She serves at New Wilmington Presbyterian Church in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.