I ask that question often when I’m in slow conversations with people. I don’t mean that I’m bored and so I toss out an odd question to shake things up. I mean the kind of conversation where I’ve left room for the other person to talk. And then we’ve conversed. And somehow the person has said, “I’m praying often.”
And I say, gently and curiously, “What are you asking God?”
Because I want to know. Sometimes I can tell God I agree with their request. Sometimes I can help them see the answers. Sometimes I can suggest additional things to ask about.
This time I was able to be part of the answer.
“I’m telling him that I’m sorry and I’m asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for this problem to be cleared up.” The second part was familiar to me. Lots of us are asking for problems to be cleared up. The first part, though, I don’t hear as much. But at that moment I knew what to do.
“Frannie,” I said, though I used her real name. I looked right into her eyes. “Frannie, your sins are forgiven.”
And then both of us had tears.
I was following along with the words Jesus said to the disciples the night Thomas wasn’t with them. “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven;” Jesus said. “If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
What this woman needed to hear, with a face she could see and a voice she could hear, were the words Jesus said often to people who were ill. “Your sins are forgiven.”
I wished I could give her the other words He often said: “stand up and walk.” But in this moment there was much healing.
First published in 2017.
Photo by Megin