Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (2 Kings 5) transports me to my Oakley neighborhood pre-school days – which meant youngsters playing together out in the yards and sandboxes and woods, not going to school – and my main playmate was next door neighbor Tommy Brown. We explored woods and played GI Joe and kickball, but our favorite pastime was playing cowboys and Indians. We loved the old black and white show, The Lone Ranger – I can still remember that beginning with the William Tell overture, and the announcement of a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty hi ho Silver! We’d take turns being Kimosabe and Tonto. I preferred playing the Jay Silverheels part, not just because Tommy was taller, but I loved saying Tonto’s lines. My favorite line came whenever our imaginary journeys led us to encounter some ne’er-do-well stirring up trouble there in Mesa County: Him bad medicine. I’m sure it’s politically incorrect, but ever since then, whenever I encounter someone who emits unhealthy vibes, Tonto’s assessment still runs through my head, him bad medicine. And speaking of medicine, another clear memory I have of my pre-school days with Tommy was the time we both got seed warts on our hands. An old woman in the neighborhood was reputed to be “good medicine.” She was Mrs. Grider, the community’s folk healer. I’m not sure what all she could do; if she was like other community folk healers I’ve met, she could probably “talk fire out” (take the heat and blister out of a burn injury), make bleeding stop, etc. But what my Mama and Tommy’s Mama took us to Mrs. Grider’s for was to talk the seed warts off of our hands. Mrs. Grider had a little cloth she would lay over your hand, then she would close her eyes and mutter an incantation or prayer or something, and sure enough, by the next day, the warts were gone. Her medicine wasn’t strong enough to talk the mischief out of me and Tommy, though, or the burn out of our backsides that day, when we got tired of waiting around while our mamas visited with her, and we discovered that you could give Mrs. Grider’s sofa a good whack and make dust fly up into the shaft of sunlight coming through the window, and then we found it was really cool-looking to spit through that cloud of dust swirling through the shaft of light. Bad medicine, for sure.
The passage today takes us to an ancient land of alternative medicine and faith healers who, like Mrs. Grider, specialized in skin problems. The prophet Elisha was good medicine for the Syrian military man, Naaman, even though the medicine was far simpler than the general expected. Many curious details are packed into this short episode. The main character, a pagan foreigner whose hand is diseased with leprosy, has been victorious in battle by the hand of his enemy’s Lord God. An Israeli slave girl shows compassion toward this Syrian general and gives him advice on how to receive healing. He expects some kind of grand dramatic healing event, with the prophet waving his arms and bringing down the power of the Lord. Instead, he’s told to go take a dip in the Jordan River. After some resistance, this remedy indeed provides the cure, with his hand’s flesh becoming like that of a young boy. In a curious after note, Elisha’s assistant, Gehazi, turned out to be a bit like me and Tommy and couldn’t leave well enough alone. His mischief got him more than a whooping, though; Elisha put the mojo on him and he was covered in the leprosy that had just come out of Naaman. Bad medicine, for sure.
The Tontos and Elishas and Mrs. Griders of the world tell me there’s something more to healing than prescription drugs. There’s a wisdom out there, probably dying out, that knows how to access healing power and control diseases in unexpected ways, ways not taught in med schools or covered by HMO policies. I’d love to tap into that wisdom, to access that kind of understanding about how the realms of spirit and flesh interact. I’d love to get to the place where one day the Tontos of our world might encounter me and their intuition would have them tell Kimosabe, him good medicine.
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Healing.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.