“Just because you can’t be cured, doesn’t mean you can’t have healing.” As a therapist and, more recently, as a chaplain here in Louisville, I cannot tell you how often I have spoken these words. In counseling, I’ve said them to my clients and their loved ones in the wake of a terminal diagnosis. As a chaplain, I’ve said them following news that the patient has a chronic health condition. Maybe it will necessitate long-term, perhaps lifelong, management. Bad medical news has hit them like a brick. Their doctors have handed them this difficult news and now they’re in my office because, regardless of how prepared they were for the news, they’re struggling to navigate the reality of life with chronic illness or the prospect of imminent death.
The understandable longing is for restored normalcy—a return to life before the illness or the diagnosis. But there is no going back. Once we are confronted with our mortality and the vulnerabilities of human life, we are forever changed. Even in the instances where disease is eradicated, the only “normal” that can be attained is what is referred to as a “new normal”—a normal that accounts for the limitations wrought by illness or disability but is nevertheless full of new possibilities. And it is in the midst of this new normal that healing can begin. When we are no longer gripped by the desire to go back to who we once were, we are willing to explore who we are becoming and, perhaps, who we were intended to be in the first place. It is a peculiar phenomenon: the acknowledgement of our limitations and wounds has the potential to catalyze transformation into a restored life lived with greater purpose and integrity.
Restoration requires humility as we realize our profound need for the grace that is experienced through our relationship with the Source of all, and one another. Only then do we understand that dying to our old selves makes it possible to be restored and made new. More healing is available, in the midst of hard times, than we may have ever dreamed was possible.