Permission slip

There are several things that I’ve done over the years simply because someone has shown me that I can do it. Either I thought I needed permission to do it, or I needed to know that it was something that a person could do on her own. I think there are a lot of things like that. I want to let you know that you have within you the ability and power to do a lot more than you think you can.

One thing that I do is cut my own hair. I learned that I could do this from one of my brother’s former wives. Julie had been a hairstylist and she had a cute new hairstyle one day. I commented on how good it looked and she said that she did it herself. This was an entirely foreign idea to me. You could cut your own hair? You didn’t have to go to a hairstylist? I’d never liked getting my hair cut anyway. I don’t like that weird backwards-washing-of-the-hair part. It always hurts the back of my neck and I feel trapped. I don’t really like all the small talk they expect. It also costs a lot of money, and then you are expected to tip. Added on to all of that, I have a cowlick they never seem to know what to do with.

There were a lot of good reasons to try cutting my own hair. I started cutting my own hair in college. It looked terrible at first, but fortunately weird hair is normal in college. Plus, hats look really good on me. Practice makes perfect, and now I can cut my own hair in about 5 minutes. The fact that one person told me I could do this has made my life easier and saved me a lot of money and time.

Another instance was with a friend who had a healing salve. I asked her to make some for me and she looked at me kindly and said that I could do it myself. She did me a favor by not making it for me. By encouraging me to make it myself I unlocked a hidden ability. I researched different herbs for healing. I went to a health-food store and bought the dried herbs and oils. I made my first batch with calendula, comfrey, yarrow, and hyssop. The next thing I know, I’m growing the herbs myself to make my own from scratch. It works perfectly for cuts and burns and bruises.

I’m coming to realize that the same situation is true with religion and faith. I’m becoming wary of a top-down hierarchy where everything is done for you. I’m leaning into the idea that God wants each of us to take on the task of helping and healing, and that it is a lot easier than we think. One way I’m working on this idea is through the use of anointing oils.

I got the idea of using anointing oil from two different sources. One was a lady in a religion class I took who brought some anointing oil to one of the classes and anointed everybody who wanted it. She would put a small dot on our foreheads or in our palms and say words to remind us that we are children of God. I had also read a book by Sara Miles, most likely the one titled “Jesus Freak”. She mentioned that in the food bank she works in she would go with anointing oils and anoint the hands of the workers. She wanted to remind them that their hands were a blessing to everyone that they served. With their hands they helped feed people both body and soul. Neither of these women were ordained. This inspired me. If they could do it, why couldn’t I?

I bought a small vial of anointing oil at a Catholic bookstore. It wasn’t in a special place that you needed any special credentials to buy. You didn’t have to prove you were ordained to use it. It came with a pamphlet on sample words to use when you anointed someone and how to consecrate it. I read all the preliminary set-up to see how to get started. I wanted to see if I could read between the lines and see if it could be consecrated by anybody. I felt like I needed permission. I didn’t want to do it wrong or do it in a disrespectful manner.

I had figured that a priest had to do it, but then there would be some explaining. If I took it to my priest to consecrate, I’d have to explain why I wanted it. I would have to explain why I felt that it was OK for me to go out and anoint people who needed healing. So, following my usual method of operation I read the pamphlet carefully. These lines stood out to me as permission to do this myself. “Those Christian brothers and sisters laboring for the cause of Jesus Christ, standing in His stead, performing His work on earth, should consecrate it and set it apart for its holy purposes.” I’m Christian, check. The description ncludes sisters, so it isn’t just for priests. Check. Desire to use it for holy purposes – check. Good to go. I felt like I was reading between the lines to make sure that I wasn’t doing anything in a disrespectful manner. I felt like I’m using the rules to break the rules.

Then I went to a lecture by Becca Stevens, who is an Episcopal priest but doesn’t wear her collar or go by the term Reverend very much. She was talking about her new book “Snake Oil” and selling healing oils that are made through her nonprofit ministry called Thistle Farms. She concluded her speech with the idea that it seems crazy to think you can heal the world with love, but why not give it a try? It can’t hurt. She had healing oils for sale and encouraged us to use them. We aren’t special, right? We aren’t ordained. But maybe, just maybe, because she was telling us to go out and use them, maybe we were OK. Maybe we were just given permission. Maybe we were just empowered.

What I want to let you know is that you have within you right now the ability to heal. You don’t need certification and you don’t need special permission. You have it by virtue of the fact that you are a human being and a child of God.

How do you heal? Look people in the eye. Remember their names. Smile at them. Offer to carry heavy things. Hold open a door. Every time that you remember that you are part of a community and you take time to help another person, you have helped to heal the world. Every time you remember that each person is a child of God and you treat them with love, you have helped bring this world a little closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.

I don’t know why we often assume that only ordained people have this power. In the Christian faith, we are told that if we are baptized, we are ministers. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a part of the healing of the world. Jesus gave power to his disciples to cast out demons. In Matthew 10:1 we learn that “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (NIV) That power isn’t just for them. It is for all who believe in Jesus as the Son of God. I’m also going to go so far as to say it is for everybody, not just those who believe in Jesus. Go. Heal. Be nice. Show love. It may sound crazy that we can change the world by showing love, but it can’t hurt to try.