“Any progress?” Malik asked the same question at the beginning of every session. So far, the answer was always the same. If there had been any progress, it was too subtle to be discernible.
Alex gazed up at his physical therapist from his supine position on the therapy table perpetually set up in the center of the garden room. The all-seasons space was an expanse of glass windows on all sides including the roof. A person could feel as they were under the tree canopy. This was the perfect space to relax through the torture that was named physical therapy. “Can you heal my spinal cord?”
“No,” Malik answered. “Only you can do that.”
“I’m not a doctor. How can I heal myself?”
“I’m not a doctor either and yet you asked me the same question.”
“But you’re a healer.” This seemed so obvious to Alex.
“Your body is the healer.” Malik said.
“What do you mean by that?” So far his body hadn’t done much healing. Alex had grown frustrated in the six months since the car accident that had left him mostly paralyzed from the waist down.
“Your body has the natural ability to heal itself and your mind is the only thing standing in its way.”
“How can my mind be standing in its way?” Alex asked, nervous about the direction this conversation was heading. “My brain is way up here my legs are down there.”
“I have heard of spinal cord injuries—even really bad spinal cord injuries—being healed with the power of focused energy healing.” Malik ran a metal tool down the center of Alex’s left foot and then his right.
Sometimes Alex thought he felt the pressure when Malik manipulated his feet and legs, but he wasn’t sure if that was just a manifestation from knowing the pressure was there. Other days he didn’t feel a thing.
“I can teach you how to do focused energy healing, but you are the one who has to use your mind in order to focus that energy. I can help, but ultimately the decision is up to you.”
“Okay, I’ve decided. I want to be healed.”
“What is this really about?” Malik was on to him.
Might as well be upfront and blunt. “I want to be able to make love to your daughter on our wedding night.”
Maybe Alex should have waited for Malik to put down his water bottle before saying that because he spit water across the room. Sputtering and coughing, he wiped off his mouth and tossed a towel on the floor, wiping up the mess with his foot. “Is that so?”
“Do you think it’s possible?” Alex ignored Malik’s obvious discomfort about the topic.
“Aside from the fact that I want to beat the crap out of you for even suggesting that with my daughter, from a healing perspective, I think it’s possible. From the perspective of her father, I want to beat the crap out of you.”
“Oh, come on Malik, you love me like a son. If I were your son, and not trying to marry your daughter, what would you do to heal my spinal cord injury?”
“I would do the same thing that I will do for you,” Malik said, laying a hand on Alex’s shoulder. “I will help you, in any way I can, to regain full control over every part of your body.”
“Thank you,” Alex said, thankful they’d gotten the awkward part of the conversation out of the way. “So, how do we get started?”
“Well, do you believe you can be healed?” Malik asked.
“What makes you hesitate?”
“I think I’ll believe it when I see it.” Why was Alex suddenly feeling defensive?
“Well, I think you’ll need to believe it in order to see it. Which means we need to back up a little bit. What’s the real issue?”
“What do you mean?” Alex asked.
“Let me rephrase the question. Do you believe that you should be healed?” Malik raised his eyebrows.
“I’m not sure.” Alex’s soft voice contained every vulnerability in his heart.
“What makes you say that?” Malik’s voice was equally as soft.
“I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life.”
“We’ve all done a lot of bad things in our lives.”
“I think I’m being punished for my sins.” Alex couldn’t look Malik in the eye from embarrassment and remorse.
“I don’t think God works that way,” Malik said.
“How do you know?” Alex asked, defensively. “Have you ever met him?”
“No… but I think you have.”
Alex couldn’t respond to that observation.
“What really happened when you were over there?” Malik’s question was soft and compassionate. Alex knew Malik was one of the few people in the world he could trust.
“I was in the most peaceful, wonderful, extraordinary paradise you can possibly imagine,” Alex said, allowing his mind to wander back to that plane, hovering on the edge. “But one of the things that I had to experience while I was there was a perfect recollection of everything I had ever done in my life, right and wrong. When you stand in the presence of God and have all of your sins laid out in front of you, it really makes you evaluate what you’ve done and what you haven’t done.”
“What’s the worst thing that you think you’ve done?” Malik asked in a near-whisper. “And the reason you think you don’t deserve to be healed?”
“I was with a lot of girls. I mean a lot of girls. I took away their innocence,” Alex said, choking up. “For what? One night of fun? One hour of fun? If I did so many things wrong using that part of my body, maybe God’s punishing me by taking away function to that part of my body.”
“Again, I don’t think it works that way,” Malik said. “I think you need to forgive yourself for all the things that you did wrong and ask God to heal you. Ask him to heal your mind as well as your body, because you won’t be able to heal your body until you can heal your mind.”
“I don’t know how.” Tears ran down Alex’s face, dripping into his ears and onto the table. He reached up and tried to brush the tears off his cheeks.
“I think you do know how,” Malik said. “I think you are one of the few people in this world who has been shown how to forgive yourself. You are now in a position to choose whether or not you will forgive yourself. Do you think God has forgiven you?”
“I know he has.”
“How do you know that?” Malik cocked his head to the side. “Did you ask him? Did he tell you with words?”
“He didn’t have to,” Alex said. “I was just talking to Ellen about this earlier today. In paradise there is no speech. There is no talking. There’s just knowledge. There’s an overwhelming feeling of understanding one another. There was no English language or Spanish or French or Farsi or Arabic. There was just thought and understanding, and compassion. That’s why I know that even as scarlet as my sins were, God has already forgiven me.”
“Then why can’t you forgive yourself, son?”
“I don’t know.” Alex searched Malik’s eyes, desperate for answers.
“Well, that’s the first assignment,” Malik said. “As soon as you know the answer to that question, we’ll go to the next step in your healing. Is that fair?”
Alex had to choke on his words when he answered his friend and physical therapist. “Yes, that’s fair.”
Book Club Discussion Question: Why do you think Alex can't forgive himself?