Houston Graduate School of Theology

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Academic Excellence, Personal Transformation, Leadership Development

Healers through the Spirit

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By Dr. Michael G. Ditsky, PhD, Adjunct Professor of Counseling, Houston Graduate School of Theology Henri Nouwen, who devoted his life to spiritual practices, wrote, “It is this power of the divine Spirit that Jesus wants to give us. The Spirit indeed empowers us and allows us to be healing presences. When we are filled with that Spirit, we cannot be other than healers.”

Too often, during grief or suffering, we are speechless. We cannot find the right words to say. We stumble and feel awkward. We forget that our mere presence, filled with the belief that we are all connected, is the best statement. When we just sit with others, saying nothing, there is a calm that comes from the Spirit that fills the empty spaces.

Henri further wrote, “In and through Jesus, we come to know God as a powerless God who becomes dependent on us. But it is precisely in this powerlessness that God’s power reveals itself. This is not the power that controls, dictates, and commands. It is the power that heals, reconciles, and unites. It is the power of the Spirit.”

We are all healers when we recognize the power of the Spirit given to us. Often, the simple act of listening is comforting as it confirms and validates the other person. Healing through our presence does not always occur within the confines of traditional counseling or ministry roles, office or church. Opportunities for our healing presence occur in natural, often unexpected settings.

A recent exchange with a hospital phlebotomist serves as an example. The conversation took a turn from formalities to an informal discussion about her recently deceased husband. I’ll call her “Pat.” She was not a person who “wore her emotions on her sleeve.” She was easily engaged and talked about her 17-year marriage to a man who succumbed to a cardiac arrest. Pat talked about their union in glowing terms and how he told her not to mourn his passing because he had a good rich life. She spoke about his presence in her life, a presence that rescued her from depression and unwanted solitude. With a sense of pride, Pat showed pictures of her past life with her husband and then entertained her future: she wants to become a pastry chef! After an hour, she thanked me for being there with her and said, “I could talk to you all day.” It became apparent that there was an emotional thread in the fabric of her being.

To develop a healing presence, a person must listen, listen to the Spirit within oneself, listen to the Word of God, and listen to others. These periods of listening do not come easy. We must learn to be still and let the Spirit’s wind disturb us. Most of us are action-oriented, problem-solvers who want to “fix” things. We can begin to make a difference by becoming healers through listening and by our very presence. The story is told about a pastor who visited an older woman in a hospital. He sat by her bedside saying nothing. After about 20 minutes he got up, blessed her, and left. The woman told her family “that was the best pastoral visit I ever had.”