Amy Julia Becker Looks to Jesus for Wisdom on Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Healing

Posted by

Amy Julia Becker has endured several painful physical ailments during the course of her life. But as she eventually discovered, there were emotional and spiritual components to her suffering as well – and without addressing those, she couldn’t find true healing.

As a result, Amy Julia came to view Jesus’s healings in the gospels in a new, more holistic light. She shares her insights in the book “To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope,” and we discussed it recently on “Christopher Closeup” (podcast below).

When Amy Julia was a sophomore in high school, she was diagnosed with a paralyzed stomach, a “rare condition that does not have much medical explanation.” The bottom line, however, was that her stomach wasn’t processing food, leading to extreme weight loss. Over the next five or six years, she underwent “a lot of hospitalizations and various medications and all sorts of physical interventions [that] did not seem to solve this problem whatsoever.”

It wasn’t until she began addressing the problem holistically that a change occurred. Amy Julia recalled, “I still needed actual physical therapy for my stomach…but it was also relational. I was talking with a woman who was doing this physical manipulation of my inner organs, just with massage essentially. While I was doing that, I was opening up about my life on a pretty basic level, talking about friends and family. But it was integrating that sense of mind, body, and spirit that began to actually wake up my insides.”

That approach allowed Amy Julia to finally move past her stomach issues. Over the next 10 years, she got married and had three children, including a daughter named Penny who has Down syndrome – and about whom she wrote the Christopher Award-winning memoir “A Good and Perfect Gift.”

Life eventually got highly stressful, and Amy Julia found herself suffering from severe lower back pain that required Advil or Tylenol PM for relief. Having forgotten the holistic healing lesson of her youth, she once again addressed this problem solely on a physical level.

A friend suggested Amy Julia might have a problem with spinal alignment and recommended she see a yoga teacher, who used to be a physical therapist. That theory made sense, so she set up an appointment.

Amy Julia said, “I sat down with this woman named Anne on a yoga mat, and she said, ‘Tell me what’s going on.’ I said, ‘I think I have a problem with alignment.’ She responded, ‘Anytime I hear someone use the word alignment I think there’s more likely something that’s not aligned in your life than not aligned in your body.’..She said that, and it was like a floodgate opened. I talked about the way my life felt out of alignment. [We were] in the midst of this move, my husband had a big job, I was only known as the wife and mother and didn’t feel like I had a sense of my own self or place in this new town and as a mom…As I talked over the course of that next hour, we didn’t move. We did not do one yoga pose…And I really felt my back release…That moment [reminded me] the body, the mind, and the spirit are connected.”

As a writer and speaker who shares her Christian faith and explores how it relates to beauty, truth and goodness in the world, Amy Julia couldn’t help but take these insights and allow them to give her a new view of Jesus’s healings in the Bible, specifically in the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touching the hem of Jesus’s garment and being healed immediately. In revisiting this passage from Mark 5:25-34, Amy Julia saw that more than a physical healing occurred.

The passage reads: “25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the cro”wd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

On the surface, notes Amy Julia, this seems to be a quick and easy miracle for Jesus. “Yet why,” she asks, “once her bleeding has stopped, does [Jesus] insist on having her come forward, take this time with her, and publicly announce, ‘Daughter your faith has healed you, go in peace and be free from your suffering.’..[I] started to recognize that there was not simply a bodily healing that was going on, but this wider and deeper healing restoration to God, restoration to self, and restoration to community…This was a woman who was on the margins of society. We know that she was poor. In the story she never has a name, which indicates somewhat of her outcast status. And she was bleeding for 12 years…There would be a smell and some sense of being rejected, all the moreso in a pre-modern society and a religious society in which women’s menstrual bleeding was considered unclean or impure… For Jesus not only to have the power go out from Him that cures her, but then to call her forward and listen to her is really to honor her. It is to say, you have a voice, you have a story and it’s worth hearing…and to tell everybody, ‘Let me tell you who she is. She’s a daughter.'”

This story, notes Amy Julia, occurs in the middle of Jesus going to heal Jairus’s 12-year-old daughter. Jairus is a man with status and power in society, yet Jesus treats him and the bleeding woman as equals in need of help, indicating that in God’s kingdom, we are all beloved.

That belovedness is another lesson Amy Julia has had to learn because she was always a person very focused on achievement. Giving birth to a daughter with Down syndrome opened her eyes to a more holistic way of looking at people and the world.

“Especially in modern Western culture,” she observed, “we have such a sense of needing to prove ourselves through what we do. And for many people living with disabilities, that’s essentially impossible…So if we’re able to say there’s a belovedness and a value to you intrinsically, there’s so much beauty and hope for all of us in that, because it means, I don’t have to prove it…and strive constantly, and it’s always in danger of slipping out of my grasp. It’s something I can receive, this sense of belovedness being bestowed upon each of us, rather than something that we have to earn. That’s a real gift.”

It’s a gift that society struggles with, however, because people often view a person’s disability as needing to be healed. But society’s view of that person is what actually needs to be healed because we often look at or treat the disabled as “less than.”

This was true for Amy Julia herself. She explained, “I grew up in a homogenous community, and that was true in terms of race, education and affluence…Then Penny came into my life, and I was invited and welcomed into a world of people who had different intellectual abilities than I did – and also to a world of physical disability. I found that was a beautiful and enriching experience…My own biases against people with disabilities was to think that was a poor life, a sad life…Penny has opened my eyes, but also my heart, to a broader understanding of my own humanity and that of everyone around me as well.”

“Early on in Penny’s life,” continued Amy Julia, “I started to theoretically believe that everyone has needs and everyone has gifts, but I still had a hard time actively believing that in my encounters with other humans. It was still easier for me to see the person with a PhD from Harvard as the important one or the one with more gifts..I remember an encounter with a girl who had Down syndrome and autism and was a teenager who was mostly nonverbal. Again, my initial reaction was, ‘I can see her needs, but I can’t see her gifts.’ Over the course of spending a few hours with her, [I recognized] the gift of her presence because of the ability for her to bring peace and gentle touch to the people she was with. So, there were experiences that enabled me to [ask] in other situations – whether it was with someone who is elderly, from a different educational background, someone who had a disability – In what ways are you a gift to me and to others? In what ways do you have needs? In what ways am I a gift, and not just a little achievement machine? Someone who brings gifts that I am meant to offer to the world…Also, I don’t need to hide that I’m also someone with needs. So there was a real fullness…an ability to act in love towards myself and to others that was very different for me.”

In seeing all the pain in the world, Amy Julia prays that those who read “To Be Made Well” are able to move toward a greater sense of peace that brings “personal healing and knowing our belovedness, but also being sent out to bring that healing into our divisions and disputes and social hurts, to be agents of healing in the world.”

(To listen to my full interview with Amy Julia Becker, click on the podcast link):

Amy Julia Becker interview – Christopher Closeup