How do we create communities where friendship is a possibility among people of differing abilities? Dr. John Swinton, theologian and author, talks with Amy Julia Becker about mutual relationships of care, the meaning of health and healing, and the speed of love.
“John Swinton is chair of divinity and religious studies at the University of Aberdeen. He has published widely within the area of disability theology, spirituality and health, qualitative research, and mental health.”
- Twitter: @JohnSwintonAbdn
On the Podcast:
- Becoming Friends of Time by John Swinton
- To Be Made Well by Amy Julia Becker
- John 15
- Mark 5
- John 1
- Walking with Jesus in Strange Places (My Theology, 14) by John Swinton
- Jeremiah 22:15-16
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:15
- Three Mile an hour God by Kosuke Koyama
- Amy Julia’s Plough essay: When Merit Drives Out Grace
- Romans 1
When you look at the way that Jesus befriends people, it’s a very different model of friendship from the one that you and I might assume to be the norm.
Friendship becomes the new mode of discipleship, but it’s Christlike friendship…And so if we’re thinking of the church as a community of friends, you can see immediately how important that is for somebody who lives with something like schizophrenia.
Shalom, which at one level is just peace, but actually the core meaning is justice, righteousness, wholeness, to be in right relationship with God. So to be healthy is to be in right relationship, with God, self, and others.
We normally think that we come to know God and then we do good things, but he seems to be saying, no, actually your relationships—your relational encounters with the world—are a way of knowing God… knowing God is a relational process.
Following Jesus isn’t simply knowing things about Jesus. It’s actually that encounter with Jesus, which is more than simply your cognitive abilities, which makes perfect sense in the light of the body because the body of Christ is marked by that diversity, not by by uniformity. So if you have words, that’s fantastic. You’re able to help all of us to understand God in that way. If you don’t have words, that’s fantastic. You could really help us to understand God in that way.
We live in a society that is obsessed with time. So we buy time. We lose time. We waste time. Everything you do with your money, you do with your time. So time is currency in a very specific way. And so if you’re a person that doesn’t have that currency, then—even in difficulties—if you’re not able to use your time productively, if you’re not able to use your time competitively, then you fall very far short of the cultural norm of what a valuable life might actually look like.
Jesus wasn’t racing past everybody to get to the next cocktail party. He was simply sitting down with people, making friends with people, and just hanging around with them, trying to introduce them to the God who is love. So slowing down and taking time for those things that the world considers to be trivial is profoundly important—for everybody—but profoundly important for Christians.
We always need to be careful not to try to force relationships on people…but what we can do is create communities where a friendship becomes a possibility…I think that’s a beginning point for developing the kind of body-of-Christ relationships that I’m thinking about…the way that you’re creating fellowship within your community is a space to begin.
Season 5 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast connects to themes in my newest book, To Be Made Well…you can order here! Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day, as well as a video with closed captions on my YouTube Channel.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
You know, and Jesus wasn’t recent past everybody to get to the next cocktail bar. He was simply sitting down with people, make them friends with people and just hanging around. They’re trying to introduce them to the God who is love. So slowing down and taking time for those things that the world considers to be trivial as femininely and boring for everybody. But it’s profoundly important for Christians.
Amy Julia (32s):
Hi friends, I’m Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of personal pain and social division. I have been waiting for a long time to talk with today’s guest, John Swinton, and it really seems fitting to me that this conversation would be the final one of this podcast season. I will be back with more fantastic conversations in September. And if you have anyone you think I should be sure to talk with next fall, please let me know. If you aren’t already a subscriber to this podcast, I’m going to encourage you to pause right now and go subscribe. And then you will know in September when I’ve resumed recording, I would love to have you as a part of this conversation going forward.
Amy Julia (1m 19s):
All right, now, let me tell you about today’s guest. John Swinton is a theology professor at the university of Aberdeen in Scotland, and he has very thoughtful and profound things to say about theology and health and disability. John wrote a book called becoming friends of time a few years ago, and I returned to this book and I recommend it to people regularly. I highly recommend it to you as well, and you’ll get a little taste of it as we talk today. The thing that’s cool about John is that he’s not simply a writer and a thinker, but actually someone who worked as a nurse for 16 years before he got his PhD and became a professor.
Amy Julia (1m 60s):
You’ll hear again a little bit about that today. So these thoughts about dementia and disability and mental health, they all emerge out of a lived experience as both a nurse and as a Christian. So I’m really glad that we will all get to hear from those wise words today. Together. I am here today with professor John Swinton, who is joining us from Aberdeen Scotland, John, welcome to the podcast.
John (2m 30s):
Thank you. It’s nice to be here.
Amy Julia (2m 33s):
Well, it’s so nice to have you. I think I reached out for this interview. I mean, it was months ago and your travel schedule made it. You said, well, June, June would work. And I said, I’ll take it anytime. I’m just, it’s really a thrilling thing for me to get to talk to you because I’ve really been influenced by your work for many, many years. And I’ve always wanted to have this conversation on the podcast, but it came up for me again because in the book that I just wrote To Be Made, I quoted you a couple of different times because you were the first person, maybe the most influential person for me in thinking about the idea of health. And what I remember long ago was reading some of your work on how the idea of health in our modern Western society is really different from a biblical idea of health and how that actually can distort our understanding of health in general and from a theological perspective.
Amy Julia (3m 28s):
So I thought maybe we could start there as a way of introduction into you and to your work. So feel free to take a little while just to tell us who you are and how you’ve come to be someone who’s writing in various forms about this concept of health. But I’d also love for you to explain that a distinction between what most modern Europeans or Americans at least would think about when it comes to the word health and what a biblical understanding of health really is
John (3m 54s):
Sure to try. Well, my background is in mental health nursing. So 16 years I was in the data mental health, and then I retrained what’s in the area of what’s now called intellectual disability, which are then called mental deficiency. Then I’m called mental handicap and called them spell this. And so these terms change all the time. He was telling you a lot better, the instability that lies behind people who seem to be different. And so most of my early years were spent with people who were going through complex situations, people who are living with schizophrenia, people with bipolar disorder, people have found installations.
John (4m 42s):
And these were very formative years because,
Amy Julia (4m 44s):
And those like, just to interrupt you for a second, those early years, meaning the 16 years when you were nursing. Okay. So like when you were actually kind of in, in the practical sense of working with people, not just in the theory, theoretical thinking about this.
John (5m 3s):
Yeah. Good, good point of clarification. So, yes. So my, my, my actual years of nursing were formative because when you spend a lot of time with people who have different life experiences from that, which people are assumed to be normal, first of all, you realize very quickly that the no, that different, that absolutely very often people just see the world differently. And that, that definitely angle. It can be very helpful. That’s not to say it suggests that there’s no such thing as a, as a mental health challenge or that we should discount the, the, the difficulties that people encounter. But at the same time, we need to listen to that these kinds of experiences, because we do begin to see things differently. So I, I did my, I did the many years in nursing and then I, I moved into academia and I did my under graduate degree in that I moved on to my PhD and I did my PhD and on schizophrenia and Christian friendship, which is very, very interesting because schizophrenia is one of these highly stigmatized conditions that people work off stereotypes and kind of get yours rather than working off people.
John (6m 9s):
And so you have a big stigma that attaches itself. Something like schizophrenia. And so people are marginalized. They’re misnamed rejected. They’re treated very badly, very often by society. And so I think I started to think, well, what would Jesus do? And then that took me into the friendships of Jesus. Because when you look at the way that Jesus be friends, people, it’s like a, a very different model of friendship from the one that, that you and I might assume to be the norm. So if you look at under your, your friends and particularly if you’re a Facebook person, you’ll see that a lot of your friends share your same interests, look more or less.
John (6m 49s):
Like you do have the same beliefs and so on and so forth. So you get that idea that we become friends, because we have something common because like attracts like where the principle of the incarnation, as the God who is radically, unlike you, beans becomes a, you’re going to be more alive. And John’s more than that in John’s gospel offers friendship. So friendship becomes the new mode of discipleship, but it’s Christ like friendship that becomes a new mode of discipleship. I used to assess with this task collectors, with the centers with awesome society, marginalized. And so it’s a very different type of friendship. And so if we’re thinking of the church as a community of friends, you can see immediately how important that is for somebody who lives or something like schizophrenia.
John (7m 33s):
But one of the things that always struck me in relation to mental health, I noticed <inaudible> was that standard ways of thinking about health and wellness meant that some people were always ill. It’s a freemium, which certainly can leave you with, it’s possible to feel that you’ve covered the people. Maybe most people just don’t. And I says, what does that mean? Does that mean you’re L forever and yeah, by biomedical model, it would mean, you know, elephant. So you have to take your medications, your life’s possibilities are narrowed, but if you keep taking, taking this medication, then you’ll have some kind of health understood as absence of symptoms, not even absence of symptoms, control of symptoms, because we can’t really get rid of the symptoms, which made me think When I can I move from nest and then to academia, I them saying, well, is this a biblical way of thinking about health?
John (8m 35s):
And as soon as I started to look about it, it’s very clear that something else was happening in the Bible in relation to health and in relation to healing. And so if you take something like the, the woman with the discharge of blood in the gospels, right, it’s a fascinating story. So she makes her way through the crowd and she touches Jesus cloak and power was out of Jesus. And immediately she’s cured. And Jesus notices that, and then they have this conversation. But then at the end of the conversation, Jesus says something really strange. He says, go, your faith has healed you your thing, but she’s already been healed, but then you begin to realize, oh, she’s been cured, but she hasn’t been healed.
John (9m 22s):
As soon as she sent back into her community. That’s when she’s, it was a reestablished relationships with a family, with a friends, with a temper, with God that the healing comes so CUNA and healing and not necessarily the same things. So healing is to do with connections, to do a connection with yourself, where your community with goal, which is why Jesus said budget, the son of the law and the profits is to love God, love evidence and sale cause that’s true healing. And if we think about that idea of healing as reconnection that way, but it becomes clear that people who live within Judah and mental health challenges are people who live with forms of disability.
John (10m 4s):
That put just always level with them are not unhealthy. It’s actually just a different way of loving and healing. Doesn’t get rid of these things. It’s helping people to be connected and all that ties in with it. It can a biblical perspective of Shalom, which has one level is just peace. But actually the core meaning is justice righteousness coolness to be in right relationship with God. So to be healthy is to be a great relationship, the gold self and others.
Amy Julia (10m 37s):
So I have a question there. What role do you from your own experiences and theological imagination? What role does the body play in thinking about health and healing? Because if we’re talking about relationships as the core of health and healing, and yet I think most of us start with a bodily illness or pain or disability as like a, oh, that’s what needs to be healed. I, and I’m very, very resonant with you as far as the ways in which our social relationships, our spiritual relationships, our relationships, even within ourselves need healing.
Amy Julia (11m 18s):
And yet, yeah. What role do you see the body playing in healing?
John (11m 23s):
Well, it depends what you mean by the body. And so when we talk about the body that we normally think about this physical thing that we move around, and of course that is your body, but then the philosophical field of phenomenology, they have a really interesting, we are thinking of a bit body. So you have two dimensions, you have the material body, but then you have the lived body. So the material body has that physical thing that did we carry around with us, or we are the kind of sense of separation of body and mind. But the thing that we exist in and touch the world with and things go wrong with that, and things need to be fixed.
John (12m 5s):
Subject symptoms are mandate. Sometimes they can’t be. So it’s a complicated thing where can, what bodily existences, but the level is what occurs when that body engages with the world. When your flesh and bone moves through the world, experiences, relationships, experiences, brokenness, experiences, joy, all of these things that we go through the left body is this place where we do that. So when we’re thinking about the body in it, but particularly when we’re thinking about healing, we’re not simply thinking about the material thing of flesh and bones, but we’re talking about how that interacts with the world. And it seems to me that the incarnation, God becoming a human being is a good example of that.
John (12m 50s):
At one level, God becoming a human being means that what became flesh and lived amongst us, but it’s the left amongst us. That is fundamentally exciting. And where we begin to discover who God is and how retention is. So there’s that really intricate connection between the body and where the body lives itself within the world. And when we’re talking about health and healing, it’s important to keep these two dimensions of the body and a critical tension.
Amy Julia (13m 22s):
So I’m curious to think a little bit, as you know, I have a daughter with down syndrome. And so I think about intellectual disability as it relates to everything but health and healing and, and a biblical just understanding of the world. And when I was reading your book, this most recent book, walking with Jesus in strange places, you talked about working with people with intellectual disabilities and how that I have a quote here, challenged your even gelical imagination. And so I wanted to ask you just to define what that means, evangelical imagination, and then also how that work with people with intellectual disabilities changed and challenged that imagination.
John (14m 6s):
Yeah. I probably would have been more accurate to say my Presbyterian imagination because Presbyterians love words, right? So preaching, teaching, everything comes through what salvation, ultimately it comes through the proclamation of the word and then receive the articulate words. So words are extremely important for Presbyterians, but of course that’s highly problematic for people who are doing it have words. So what, what do you do with that is as our words, the only way that we can contact God and only way that we can experience God. And of course my working alongside people, particularly people with defended lecture to spelling, challenges, all of that stuff.
John (14m 51s):
Because if you either have a God who says, no, I’m not really interested. If you guys speak that poses a problem for all of us, as we get older and degenerate, or we need to nuance or a theology not to get rid of words, but begin to think about how we can find an understanding of what is intended to do then corporately simply because the words themselves are not the boy. That is what the model does, which is to draw people to Jesus ultimately. But there are two theological movements that I found revelatory or late first one was in Jeremiah, 2216 and another character, which I talking about Kim to say, it says, it’s a good king.
John (15m 38s):
Why is he a good king? Because he looks after the widows and orphans and then Walter Brueggemann Octa testaments score points. So that the prophet says that she says, is that not what it means to nor me to look after what is Novus? Is that not what it means to know me? Because we normally, we think, well know we come to know God, and then we do good things, but he seems to be saying, no, actually your relationships, your relational encounters with the world, our way of knowing God, I thought that was really, really interesting that that knowing God is a relational process.
John (16m 19s):
The second came when we came, when a string Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book discipleship, which there’s a chapter in there, which is titled Matthew’s call. And it’s just simply bought off reflecting on Jesus, calling Matthew. And he’d probably say that the assumption very often is that Matthew must’ve known things about Jesus. And so you must have heard the stories. He must’ve been told this, that next thing we bought a for sale, maybe, but you have to go beyond the text to say that because the text doesn’t say that the text simply says, Jesus called Matthew followed.
John (17m 2s):
And it’s really interesting. So when you think about the disciples, they didn’t know who Jesus was. They didn’t have that cognitive ability to know that Jesus was constantly confused and constantly bickering amongst themselves. And even after the resurrection, there were uncertain yet they were still in the same books. So following Jesus, isn’t simply knowing things about Jesus. It’s actually that encounter with Jesus, which is more than simply your cognitive abilities, which makes perfect sense in the light of the body because the body of Christ is marked by that varsity, not by by uniformity. So if you have words, that’s fantastic. You you’re able to help Elvis to understand God, not worry.
John (17m 44s):
If you don’t have work, that’s fantastic. Could really help us to understand God, not worry. That’s only when we bring together these different dementias, the body of Christ, but we understand what it means to follow Jesus. So these two theological moments can push me to expand my evangelical stroke, Presbyterian imaginations.
Amy Julia (18m 3s):
Yeah. I mean, I’ve certainly had a really similar experience. You write a little bit about something that happened with me when penny was really young, there was a woman who had an adult child with a down syndrome who came to visit me. And one of the things she said was that she, even though the other people in her church thought she didn’t, or shouldn’t she allowed her daughter to take communion because her daughter was not able to say, I believe with my mouth in, you know, Jesus Christ and I can, or I believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. And yet this woman was in her mind doing this subversive act by allowing her daughter to take communion and to participate in the body of Christ.
Amy Julia (18m 46s):
And I, at the time didn’t have the theology to back it up. But I had the sense that there was something very profoundly, right about what she was doing in saying my daughter, who is here worshiping with me and in relationship that is evident. If even if not through words with God should be more than welcome at the table to receive the body and blood of Christ. And yet I also, she was coming out of that same space that you’re describing of. It’s only through words that we can do this. And you also write about the, within all of this, the dangers of hyper cognition, that there’s a sense of our hierarchy that can get set up in our understanding of ourselves and of God, in which the people who have the words right.
Amy Julia (19m 34s):
And can proclaim them properly, are the ones who are either the only ones who are saved or maybe a little less terribly like the ones who are the most valuable, but either way, there’s a distortion ironically of the word of God, I think, and of the person of Jesus, certainly. And when we go that way and I wanted to go back to just, when you were talking about the idea of caring for the poor is a way of knowing God, the Jeremiah verse, you just mentioned, because you also mentioned that in the book and I was I’m paying attention to that because I just wanted to think about like, So if a relational process, I think you said something about like knowing God is a relational process, right?
Amy Julia (20m 21s):
It’s not just a cognitive one. And yet it’s also particularly a relational process with widows and orphans or with the poor. It’s not just, as you were saying before, like a relational process with other people who are like me and who will keep me comfortable. And so could you talk about that? Like what, who are the poor, what does it look like to be in a relationship of care? That’s not a relationship of patronizing. I’m not. I think about the fact that people with disabilities and dementia and mental illness can be used as like kind of props for charity or abstract theological insight, rather than being seen and known as like the full image bearers of God that they are.
Amy Julia (21m 9s):
And so I just wanted to ask you to talk a little bit about what does it actually mean and look like to be in relationships of care with, you know, quote unquote the poor.
John (21m 19s):
Yeah, that’s a good question. So one way I would think of it is in relation to CARE and the way in which culturally, we tend to downgrade the receiving of care that somehow, you know, people with certain forms of facilities or dementia that I could example are somehow a burden on society. This is how I was thinking about it. So in the Genesis account of creation that are two creation narratives. So the first creation narrative, God creates the world and get a student to be as dominion or dominance.
John (22m 4s):
That’s a hit the Hebrew. Wasn’t a very strong word crushed down and all the world in this place, right? So you got a sense of chaos and then human being same place. But in the second again of creation, God gives out responsibility to CARE and to tend to the world. So care is built into the creation dynamic to be a human being is to participate in God’s continuing key or the worlds of care in 10 for the world. So F kid is a Primo gift that God’s given to human beings and an aspect of what we are, and then the necessary Corolla or a compliment to that is to be cared for so to care and to be here for us to be part of being human beings.
John (22m 57s):
So if it comes to that time in your life, all you can do is be cared for, or if that’s the way your life has always been, you don’t lose your dignity. You don’t become a burden. You simply reclaim an aspect of your own humanness that society has forgotten about. And so I think when you begin to think of care as, as something that’s reciprocal is something we’re given data. So that takes it, give it to and tips I received from each other. And sometimes it’s not as simple, simple, we just receive it, but that’s simply received when it’s just another gift of creation. It’s just another way of being in the world. And another way of discovering that shininess. So I think when you begin to look at CARE and that kind of biblical reciprocal, that a lot of the problems that we have in relation to patronize, not the students or with dementia and also CARE and uncaring ages begins to take a different framing.
John (23m 58s):
So has to be, I, I, I would begin with that, but the second dimension to that is that we do live in a world that is as fallen and broken, but it’s being redeemed, but it’s not being redeemed and all this fullness yet. So we have to always be careful of being, having tendency that we have to get out of mistake when I make mistakes or to overpower one another, that to put false names on people, that food, false relationships onto people, because particularly a lot of people were thinking about people maybe with pre-funded relation disabilities and advanced dementia. This is guys are in a situation where they’ve lost a lot of the power that they have to tell their own story.
John (24m 41s):
And when you lose the power to tell your own story, other people start telling that for them. And when other people tell them that story and I, and I contexts, we are, you know, your intellect is really important. You can back guarantee that the stories that I’ve told are going to be negative stories. So we have to be careful about our power dynamic, but remember receiving care, giving care, telling stories about people and receiving the stories. So it’s, it’s a complex thing, but I think that there’s a way in which we can do it, that maintains dignity even in the face of situations, because society says that there’s no dignity.
Amy Julia (25m 17s):
Yeah. I love what you just said in terms of just like the forgetting essentially who we are that actually, when we are caring and receiving care, that’s a, that’s a remembering of what it means to be human at our essence, almost no matter which if you’re on the giving or receiving, and there’s a reclaiming, or there can be a restoration to humanity that happens in that. And that does, however, as you’re talking about, like, it goes, the values of our society do tend to say when you are filled with words and using them in a quote unquote productive, which generally means like moneymaking and efficient way, then you are a valuable human.
Amy Julia (26m 8s):
And so when you are in a place where that is not the way, your way of being in the world, you are a burden. And you’re obviously, and I think the Bible is very much challenging that understanding of humanity. And I’m wondering to just take it to a different aspect of these, these differences, both between a biblical understanding and like the values of what God values and what we value. I’m thinking about your book, becoming friends of time and the relationship between time and I’m specifically about disability and the idea that I’m slowing down and like walking at the speed of love is very much a challenge in our modern world.
Amy Julia (26m 55s):
And I’d love for you to just talk a little bit about this relationship between time and DISABILITY and, and really what that has to do with this idea of like health and wholeness. That’s different from how we understand it.
John (27m 9s):
Yeah. This, your term disability is very important, but they shouldn’t say tremendous is very important because we live in a society that is kind of obsessed with time. So we buy time, we lose time. We waste time, everything you do with your money and you do with your time. So time has come sit in a very specific way. And so if you’re a person that doesn’t have that comes in, then even difficulties, if you’re not able to use your time productively, if you’re not able to use your time competitively, then you fall very far short of the cultural norm of what about your real life might actually look like.
John (27m 52s):
And you can tell you, you can see that work itself. For example, when people retire. So you ask somebody who’s retired, what are you up to I’m busier than ever? You know, I’ve never been so busy now that what, when I tired, I don’t want to be busy. Well, the reason people say that is because busy-ness is comfortable as cultural conversation is it gives you volume, should doing things. Just the things. If you’re you’re, you’re, you’re valuable, which is why retirement is such a crisis, cause a spiritual crisis because everything that you’ve got in life in terms of what gives you meaning and purpose and value, disappear from your job disappeared, your dentist is tied in with that, essentially, et cetera.
John (28m 39s):
But what I, what I, I, I want people to think about is maybe God moves more slowly. And so the idea in that particular book of the female in our goals, which is <inaudible> <inaudible> is that it’s a metaphor for the incarnation. It goes like this, that the average speed that somebody walks out is three miles per hour. But Jesus who has gone walks at females, whatever God who is love walks, it’s email’s pillar to love has a speed, speed, speed. And when we began to take that on board, you can begin to see things differently. If you’ve ever spent time with somebody with a profound intellectual disability or some people advanced dementia in particular, you’ll discover that you will know nothing about them.
John (29m 27s):
If you move it quickly, but if you slow down and take time to be with them, you discovered all sorts of things. You know, people listen to this, to me, I’ve experienced with somebody with dementia, where if you’re sitting with that person, even from a few seconds, you can lock into something’s different, you know, some of these function and different way, you’re able to respond to them in a different way, but you can only do that when you move slowly. I suspect that that’s, that’s how Jesus would work. You know, Jesus, it wasn’t race past everybody to get to the next cocktail party. He was simply sitting down with people, making friends with people and just hanging around there, trying to introduce them to the God who is love.
John (30m 16s):
So slowing down and taking time for those things that the world consider speak trivial as profoundly important for everybody, but profoundly important for Christians.
Amy Julia (30m 26s):
I have a couple of other thoughts in response to that one. I was just going back to the story of the woman with the issue of blood, which actually the book that I just came out with centers around that story and how even, yeah, even that encounter between Jesus and that woman is in the middle of Jesus on his way to heal someone else gyrus his daughter. And yet he is walking and he pauses and he pauses for longer than is necessary in order to heal her well in order to cure her. Anyway, I think, but, but actually, maybe this, this even brings this point out that that sh he, she is cured without him really slowing down just by reaching out.
Amy Julia (31m 10s):
Right. But it’s that healing that deeper restorative work that happens because of the encounter with Jesus, which can only happen, why having it take time. And then the other thing I’m thinking about, I wrote a, I wrote a piece for plow quarterly this past year about love and time and down syndrome. And this experience I had with penny from when we were at a national park and she moves more slowly than the rest of our family. And so sometimes we all slow down and other times I, one of us will say, I’ll walk with penny and everybody else, go ahead and do your thing. And it was really interesting because I found myself wanting to tell a narrative of slowing down with penny.
Amy Julia (31m 52s):
This was a day when Peter and Marilee and William had gone ahead and I wanted my narrative to be that I saw better things because of the slowness. I appreciated the nature more. And I noticed the owl in the tree. And at the end of our walk, it was like, no, I saw less like Peter and Marilyn, William got the more spectacular experience of this park. What did I get from slowing down? I got my daughter, like I got this time with her. That’s what I got. Like, I didn’t get a spectacular Vista. I just got her. And that, that was all I needed. Like that was, that was where love was in that moment.
Amy Julia (32m 36s):
And it was a really, it was a really, I dunno, I guess it was just a telling moment for me because I am someone even having learned all of these things. I’m still someone who rushes and who just likes to get things done. And I’m so grateful for both the witness of Jesus and the presence of penny in my life. Just have that invitation to slow down and to trust that that is where love so often is much more, I guess, accessible. It’s not like love isn’t present when I’m rushing, but I’m much less likely to receive and participate in that love.
Amy Julia (33m 18s):
Well, I’m curious also though, about, about Jesus’s miracles in the gospels, in which healing seems to happen very quickly, right? I mean, like there’s this, this instantaneous physical transformation happening, whereas it seems to me that there’s also something to be said for healing taking time. And so I’m just curious if you have any thoughts about that. Like whether healing does take time, but sometimes God just decides to speed it up or, or whether there’s something else that’s going on there.
John (33m 57s):
I think it needs to be careful too, when we’re thinking about the healing medicals and protection in particular, in relation, obviously not to read back into history of what we think is going on from our biomedical perspective, right? So reading back into second century Mediterranean culture, what we think that Jesus was doing as a doctor for example, would be to completely misunderstand what he was up to. Because one of the things that the medicals is they had theological intense. In other words, the moment to tell you something about good, meant to tell you something about who Jesus was.
John (34m 38s):
Jesus has people. And then at the end of the encounter, you asks go your, your sentence up forgiven. So who can, who can forgive sins only God can forgive sins. So therefore Jesus is gone. So you can see that time and time. Again, these medicals are intended to tell us something about Jesus. They’re not medical the theological as not to say that it’s not great medical thing that happens in terms of physical transformation, tremendous, but they’re not intended to be. So therefore we can all do the same thing because we’re not all Jesus, not trying to attempt to draw attention to itself in that way.
John (35m 18s):
So the signs and wonders designed to help us see Jesus was becoming a kingdom. And so they come instantly because it’s surprise. It’s a sense of dissonance to break into a present reality and to open up and suddenly receive God different sellers that use a different us. That’s that attention. It’s fantastic. People have relief from their pain and the suffering. There’s no question about that. And God does do that. That’s up to God to do that, but the intention is to help us to see who God is rather than simply have something for ourselves. So most healing comes slowly. You know, you cut yourself, I’ll take you, I don’t know, weeks and months before that, that begins to heal it up.
John (36m 0s):
So I’m not sure bodily still indicates that that’s not normal, which is why it’s called the miracle, but I’m not sure that we do heal when we’re broken and that’s psychologically and also physically, but it does take time. And so there’s the, the two are similar in the sense that there’s things happening in that bodies because clearly Jesus changed the biochemistry of the puppet people that he touched her work with, but the intention one is different and the process and the other is quite quite different because healing does take time, physical and psychological feeling. But, but yeah, but that’s probably
Amy Julia (36m 42s):
Well, and I think they’re actually, I mean, as I think about it, there are a number of stories where again, that instant revelation of God’s, whether we’re talking about power or compassion, or even just ability to heal is nevertheless followed up by something that is takes time. I mean, and this is not true in every single instance, but I’m thinking about like, Bartimaeus being invited to follow Jesus and you have to assume there’s some ongoing healing, right. That’s happening. That is not about his eyesight. That’s about him as a human and he following Jesus or the man with leprosy, again, that word it’s, they’re cured, the 10 lepers who go to present themselves in the temple.
Amy Julia (37m 29s):
But the one who comes back to Jesus and says, thank you, is the one who is healed in that folder sense. And that, so there is even in those stories, a sense of time, again, different than what we think about, you know, there’s an instantaneous, miraculous, something that happens, but there’s still time at work. And I think that bigger picture experience of healing. Yes. Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s helpful for me. I’m curious as we started to come to a close, I’m curious to think about how to live this out. Like for you, obviously you’re spending a lot of time thinking about this, but what does that mean in your everyday life as a Christian?
Amy Julia (38m 11s):
What does it mean to practice slowness or to practice thinking about health? Not in a biomedical way, but in a relational way, what does it look like to be in ongoing relationships of care that are mutual? And I’m more in touch with the humanity that God has given us, rather than the humanity we try to manufacture for ourselves. So yeah. How do you practice this
John (38m 37s):
One way in which you can practice slowness? Because in reality, at least within our culture, it’s very difficult for people to live slowly because if you’re working in a busy healthcare system or your busy supermarket or wherever you are, it’s very difficult to function in that way because of the risk society. But I always think, you know, when the people visually were being horribly oppressed and treated unjustly going through response amongst other responses was to say, well, take a Sabbath, take a break and think about me and remember me. And I think that that’s a very powerful thing to do that again, culturally taking Sabbath, not, I dunno, how could you do, how could the, I agree we’ve continued to function that we don’t have fire, not police or whatever that isn’t really interested in.
John (39m 33s):
Just to me, it’s just some research on what’s called micro grids. So make a really, when you take two or three minutes, just out of your busy working day and step back and reflect, you know, what am I doing? Why am I doing this way? Why is this, why am I feeling this way again? And then go back into your business situation. And when you do that, you see it differently because when you’re wrapped up in busy-ness and speed, you can’t really make sense. For example, in healthcare, the temptation is just to get caught up in tasks and forget what people, because it’s so busy, but if you take a microbiome step back and then start back in again, you see, you see things differently.
John (40m 21s):
And if you want to frame microbiome, that’s kind of like miniature Sabbaths Sabbath moments. When you step out, get your perspective, focus on God, step back. And, and so you’re still been moving at fast speed, but you’ll actually be moving slowly because you’ll be able to see the landscape that you’re working in and equate a different way. So I think that’s a very practical, almost method that real dealing with how you can become slow in the midst of busy-ness with regards to relationality and the development of the kinds of friendships that Jesus uses to, to develop.
John (41m 1s):
I think it’s impossible. Well, it’s not impossible. We always need to be careful not to try to enforce relationships on people. I want to be your friend cell falling around for the next 10 days. Make sure, but what we can do is create communities where a friendship becomes a possibility what our preaching and teaching is not oppressive in the ways that we’ve been talking about when we preach the word, we’re always aware that that language itself may actually exclude somebody else. And when you to think about how we can think differently about the language you use, so that it’s inclusive. I don’t mean she evolves sharp edges about tradition.
John (41m 41s):
What I mean is just make sure that everybody can understand it, make sure it makes sense. The context of, of the, of the probiotic. So by creating communities where friendship is a possibility, I think that’s a beginning point for developing the kind of body relationships and <inaudible> relationships that I’m thinking about. So, you know, we teach preach, you know, we have the way that you’re creating a fellowship communities within your community as a big, as a space to begin. In other words, being intentional about recognizing the differences within our communities, because it’s intentionality where things just hum along under the hood, that’s when things are problematic.
John (42m 29s):
But if we can have the kind of conversations we’re having here and body, then the teaching fellowship that at least making the creative spaces where friendship may be possible and we’ve got, of course, if that’s possible,
Amy Julia (42m 44s):
You know, that might be the way we were supposed to end this podcast with God. Of course everything’s possible. I do art, but I’m going to ask you one more question. I’m my last question is thinking a little bit bigger picture about, so we’ve talked, I think a lot about personal experiences relationship. I love that thought of like micro Sabbaths and just slowing down throughout the day. And obviously it’s a little bigger picture to think about like a church community, but I’m also thinking about just the divisions that exist in our society, whether those are political or racial or in terms of the hierarchies we’ve talked about already, as far as like you’re a burden and you’re a productive member of society, right?
Amy Julia (43m 28s):
Like all of those dividing lines. And I’m just curious if you have any thoughts about like becoming a healthier society, right? Like we have these kinds of how do I become a healthier person in the, in the, what we’ve been talking about that relational sense. Does, do you think a healthier society comes from that very personal experience with God and with, within these like small local communities or is there more to it than that?
John (44m 1s):
There’s more to it than I think, but I think you begin with yourself. I think it was began by recognizing who you are, the way you think and why you think that we do. And as Michael Jackson ones, but it was one to make the world a better place, but heal yourself and make that change. So you have responsibility in other words, but one of the interests is I, I just finished a little book on evil. Didn’t cheer me up very much. One of the things I discovered that it was when Paul talks about evil in the bit in the beginning of Romans, he basically says it’s a evil, a curse when you try to substitute yourself for going, but he started to substitute things of human beings for the things of God evil becomes invisible because you can’t see it.
John (44m 53s):
You can’t, it’s no longer possible to see it because you’ve already persuading the self, that things that are obviously horrible, actually. Okay. So you take something like the killing of the George Floyd. So you’ve got people watch looking on seeing something horrible happening, but then you have other groups of people have seen it looking at exactly the same thing, the see nothing wrong. And there’s nothing, nothing rollers because within that system of thought, this was a normal way to behave. But as long as you becomes a bit invisible, you can’t counter it. And when society, the way in which we think about disability, the way in which we respond to people with disabilities can very easily function along the same ways, the language that we use, their own disabilities, you know, within mental health, for example, you use the line, recessions, schizophrenia and whatnot, the schizos, but there’s a schizophrenia there like a Spaniard or a new Yorker.
John (45m 53s):
So your language creates a persona, but you then treat very justly like, but it feels normal. And that language feels normal. It’s talking about mental handicap. Outlandish feels normal to some people because, because that’s the way we’ve always talked about it, that stigma, you know, the idea that you can identify somebody by one aspect is, you know, this person has a limit. So then for a bit, a couple that way of thinking that way of basically evil, but we don’t see it. We can’t see it. And so you can’t cancel it. So spiritual discernment and being aware that within the way that you think about things like disability, there is a lot of can sense of evil that you may not be aware of, but you’d say have your consciousness raise to is profoundly important because if we can’t see it and we can’t see the way that people with disabilities are treated justly inside may say that Justin nothing’s ever going to change, what’s not, it’ll just get worse and worse and worse because that kind of what evils.
John (46m 56s):
So my sense would be that we need to think seriously about spiritual discernment when it comes to thinking about the way in which we, as a culture think about and respond to people with disabilities, along with many other things. Cause it could be, if we have a systemic bias against people with disabilities, then that’s when horrible things start to happen.
Amy Julia (47m 20s):
Absolutely. And I I’m wa while you were talking, I was brought back to something you wrote in becoming friends of time. The essence of sin is the human tendency. Imagine a world without God. And so there’s like, again, these two acts of imagination, one that we might not even know we’re doing, which is what you’re talking about there, where evil becomes good and perhaps even good becomes evil, right? Even that idea of someone being a burden and therefore we don’t need them and can compassionately, you know, put them out of their suffering or something. So, so that can go both ways, but that imagination without God, is what is going to give us those systems and structures of oppression.
Amy Julia (48m 3s):
But then on the flip side of that, going back to what we were talking about before that sense of allowing our imagination to be formed and shaped by the love of God, is what can help us to live into that place of Shalom and of, of health for our own selves and our little communities, but also on that, on that broader level. Yeah. Well, thank you so much, John, for your time. It’s been so great to talk with you and just get to at least begin to explore some of the depths of the things that you’ve thought about and worked on over the years. And I certainly hope that people who got to listen in on this conversation will also pick up some of your books and, and think, and live more deeply into this.
Amy Julia (48m 48s):
So thank you so much.
John (48m 49s):
Yeah. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Amy Julia (48m 56s):
Thanks. As always for listening to this episode of Love Is Stronger Than Fear. You can check the show notes for links to the books and passages and articles that we mentioned today. And if you are going to miss hearing my voice for the next two months, I want to remind you to subscribe to the podcast. And also you can check out The audio book version of, To Be Made Well narrated by me. So whether or not you spend your summer and listening to me, I do hope it is a wonderful one. And I hope to see you not quite the right word to use, hope to encounter you again in the fall. As always, I am grateful to Jake Hanson for editing this podcast and to Amber Beery, my social media coordinator, who does more to support the show than anyone will ever know.
Amy Julia (49m 45s):
As you go into your day to day, I hope that you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that Love Is Stronger Than Fear.
Learn more with Amy Julia:
- To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope
- S5 E20 | Disability Belongs in Church with Dr. Amy Kenny
- S5 E8 | What Disability Teaches Us About Health and Wholeness with Dr. Brian Brock
If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to receive regular updates and news. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads, and you can subscribe to my Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast on your favorite podcast platforms.