“A faith healer is coming to Toms River, NJ!” declared a local newspaper. It was a chilly autumn evening, in 1976, when Mom and I went to see this guy. I was 10 years old and I wanted God to heal my eyes and ears. My mom believed that if I was healed, then I would not have to suffer.
Upon arrival, we saw a large crowd packing church. There may well have been over 200 people on that day. To handle the overflow, the church set up seats in a side room. A sound system was set up so they could hear what was going on.
We were sitting on the front right side of the church. As we sat watching, I could see a young man reaching out to various people and offering to pray for them. He appeared to be 5 feet tall, had a small frame and sandy brown hair. As he was busy working with other people, my mom saw some people getting out of their wheelchairs or walking without the use of crutches. It appeared that healing was taking place. My mom whispered into my ears about what she was seeing. Suffice to say, this added to my expectations.
What drove my mother and me to see this healer?
In 1964, I was born with poor vision, a severe hearing loss in both ears and a slight facial paralysis. The doctors told my parents that I would have a very rough future.
Dad’s desire was for me to be independent and not rely on anyone. This included not getting help from family and friends. My mom shared a similar viewpoint.
My mother would say, “Barry, you have to tie your own shoes. I am not helping you.” According to mom, I tied my shoes when I was 2 years old. My two brothers did get help when learning. It felt like a double standard.
“What disabilities? You can do the same things other kids can do,” was a common remark of my father. On the other hand, my mother was almost the opposite. Though she tried to be encouraging, my mother was overprotective.
Dad would often remark, “If I was not careful, they will come and take me away and put me in a group home.” Dad was not one to gauge his words and their effects. The message I got was that society would not accept me unless pushed to do so.
This created a strong sense of anger, hurt and frustration inside me. I was determined to show that I was just as capable as everyone else was. I just would not take “no” for an answer. Funny thing is, I didn’t have to prove anything.
In public school, I would push to prove that I was just as smart and as capable as the other kids were. Oddly enough, I didn’t have to prove I was smart. I was blind to this truth.
It was no surprise to them that I’d do well in a 5th grade spelling bee contest. Some old friends pointed out that I was considered a brainiac or a nerd. Unfortunately, I had a bad habit of quickly raising my hand and blurting out the answer.
When our gym class would go outside to play softball. When it came to batting, I would sometimes hit the ball, but more often missed it. When it came to being in the outfield, I would just not see the ball in time. If not for fellow classmates, the ball would have hit me.
I refused to acknowledge my physical limitations. I was afraid of what would happen if I even dared to ask anyone for help, and, for fear of pity and shame, I refused to let others help me, even if I was in danger.
It is 1976 and the faith healer has cometh. Oh, how I looked forward to being healed!
As he drew closer, I became increasingly excited about the coming miracle. Finally, the young man stopped in front of me and asked what I wanted. “I want to be healed,” I replied. He prayed that Jesus would heal me, and then he moved on to the next person. I was not healed that first night. I felt disappointed and hurt.
Feeling skeptical and frustrated, I went again the next night. I asked the healer, “If God can make the world in six days then why isn’t God healing me?” Seeing the hurts inside of me, he graciously prayed for me a second time. He said, “God will heal you.” I was not healed that night, either.
Eventually, I asked my mother about the healing. She said, “You need to have faith.”
Did I honestly believe that God could heal me? Yes, I did, and for a while after the healing service, I continued to ask God why I wasn’t healed.
Years later, I learned that God did answer my prayers. It just was not as I expected. My eyes and ears were not the ones in need of immediate healing. The issue was my heart and how I perceived myself. I had seen my disabilities as a prison that needed escaping but they were not. God desired for me to focus on what I can do for God and other people. For Him, it is my availability and abilities that counted and not my inabilities.