God’s Secret

I will never forget when I first learned that my mother (Merry Nell Drummond) had been healed. I was about 24 years old, and we were attending a Bible study together. The teacher asked if anyone had a healing story, and to my great shock, my mother raised her hand and said, “I do!”


“You’ve got to be kidding,” I thought.


Mom went on to tell the room of about 50 women that in 1984, when the cancer spread to her bones, her oncologist said that if she did radiation and got a hysterectomy, he could buy her about another 18 months.


Of course, she never told me because she outlived the dire prediction. Eighteen months became two years. Then 10. In fact, she had 23 years of remission before the cancer came back. She died March 3, 2010.


So was she healed or not?


The same question could be asked of writer Reynolds Price. He developed spinal cancer in 1984. After surgery, but before radiation, he had an honest-to-God dream vision. I quote from his book “A Whole New Life”:


“Jesus silently took up handfuls of water and poured them over my head and back till water ran down my puckered scar. Then he spoke once–“Your sins are forgiven”–and turned to shore again, done with me. I came on behind him, thinking in standard greedy fashion, It’s not my sins I’m worried about. So to Jesus’ receding back, I had the gall to say, “Am I also cured?” He turned to face me, no sign of a smile, and finally said two words–“That too.””


Price underwent radiation anyway. He developed paraplegia, but continued to write novels and plays until he passed away on January 20, 2011. Originally, his doctors said thought he had about 18 months to live. Like Merry Nell. Also, like her, he lived another 20+ years.


So was he healed or not?


I love both Reynolds Price’s story and my mother’s. Both contain a fair amount of mystery. Jesus shows up, but he doesn’t do exactly what we expect him to do.


Which brings me to Robert Browning’s poem, “An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician.” In this loooong poem, Karshish visits Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead–a true healing if there ever was one. And yet, Lazarus eventually died again. Browning says Lazarus knows “God’s secret, while he holds the thread of life.”


What is God’s secret? I don’t know. Maybe I never will. But I think that Lazarus, Reynolds Price, and Merry Nell Drummond did.