I once saw God heal a man with terminal cancer in Italy because one of my friends in Minnesota took a janitorial job. Or was it because I punched him? Or was it because of an article I read in a National Geographic magazine when I was 8 years old? Either way, it’s a story worth telling.
We’ll start with the magazine. I remember reading an article about the archeological discoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum and sensing at a very deep level that I had to go there. Like I said, I was 8. 10 years later, I visited Pompeii and Herculaneum. In fact, I spent a whole year in Italy, learning the language and studying art.
Now let’s skip to my friend the janitor. Actually, if you knew this guy, the word janitor would strike you as a strange way to describe him. He is one of the most intellectual people I know, and janitorial work was not his first choice. He took the job to support his family while working his way through college. He made some connections while working there, and years later, ran into one of them at a coffee shop.
My friend had started a technical writing business, and his former coworker had married someone who worked for an engineering company. The company was looking for a technical writer, so she recommended my friend. There was only one problem: They needed someone to do some technical writing in Italian.
I was a stay at home mom in Fargo, ND at the time, praying for a way to get back to Italy. When my friend called me up and asked if I would be interested in doing some translating, I was stunned. I was trained as an artist and had zero professional translation experience. I went on to work for that company for 7 years, doing document translation, and on-site interpretation in Italy. Later, they hired my husband. We often traveled and worked together, usually bringing our kids along. We used the trips as opportunities to do short term missions work and visit friends who were living in Italy as missionaries. Every trip I prayed that God would move powerfully, and open a door for something more. We made some friends and some memories, but we didn’t see anything supernatural.
On our last trip together in 2010, I was pretty discouraged. Nothing I had prayed for had materialized. Reluctantly, we went with our missionary friends to a Sunday morning service at a local church. After the service, we prayed for a young man who had been diagnosed with the deadliest form of lymphoma, and told he had less than a month to live. As we prayed, God gave me a picture of his tumor, which was right behind his sternum. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself punching him, the tumor shattering into a million tiny pieces, dissolving, and leaving his body. I felt God saying, “I want you to punch him”.
“Excuse me? You want me to what?” I had punched a person exactly NEVER before in my life. I wasn’t excited about picking on a dying man. I was also pregnant at the time, and weighed approximately 100 pounds, so I was hardly the ideal candidate for this assignment. One of our friends looked at me, and he said, “You’ve got something…God gave you something.” I fidgeted. “I felt God saying that someone was supposed to punch him.” I secretly hoped that by saying “someone” somebody else would step up. My friend smiled, “OK, you do it.” I asked the guy if it was alright, and he nodded.
So I punched him.
In the picture God had given me, I punched him so hard that he fell down, so I was a little disappointed that I only sent him staggering backward. Apparently everybody else thought I had meant a symbolic punch, because they were shocked at how hard I punched him. We prayed a bit after that, but we felt like it was done. The next day we went to work, and a few days later we flew back to the States.
A couple of months later we heard that he had clean bill of health. Last I heard he is still cancer free.
So why am I telling you this story? I’m not suggesting that we go around beating up terminally ill people (There is a biblical precedent for people doing odd things in obedience to God, and God healing people miraculously, but obedience, not odd behavior, seems to be the key). I’m also not trying to impress you with my faith. After all, I admitted that I was uncomfortable with what God asked me to do, and tried to get out of it. The point is, God is doing miracles in our time, in partnership with imperfect people.
And if He wants a housewife from the Midwest to be part of a miracle He wants to do in the Mediterranean, He makes it happen. Was that the whole reason God gave me a desire to go to Italy in the first place? Was that the reason I spent all that time learning Italian, all those years translating engineering documents, all that time praying for miracles? I don’ t know. If it was, it was worth it.
But what if my intellectual friend had decided that a janitorial job was beneath him? What if I had decided that punching people was “unspiritual”? What if your seemingly “unspiritual” acts of obedience are releasing people to partner with God in miraculous ways?