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Monday Reflection: Hallelujah Anyhow -- Revisited!

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

March 19, 2012

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

Lately, I've been getting a lot of e-mail and Tweets about God healing me of AIDS. I know they don't really mean any harm, but it drives me freaking crazy.

Well, cause, its like they look right pass the miracle of my life. Right, like the blessing that God has given me isn't enough. I know, I know they just want the best for me, but gee, how does one over look the big fat pink elephant in the room? I have lived with HIV, as of 2012 for 29 of the 31 years HIV/AIDS has been around and 20 years with AIDS.

I think my living with AIDS is a miracle! If someone can't see that, then they are so confused about God being an actor in ones life. But typically, we want what we want from God, when we want it, and that's not how it is all the time. We make decisions about our lives, and some of those decisions stick to us for the rest of our life. This is my case with HIV/AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS and God has not healed me in 29 years, so it is what it is. It's clear to me however, that God has helped me to pick up the pieces and cope as best as I can, given what I'm facing daily. God has kept me against the odds!! That's an undeniable fact!

The Bible says, "In this world there will be tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." I relish this truth. I understand that do matter what I face, God will keep me. Even in the midst of the storm. So today, I thought I would re-post a blog I wrote when I first started blogging, so you can be clear on where I stand as it relates to healing and my life living with HIV/AIDS.

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I don't hate much but its safe to say I HATE it when people start their conversation with me, "The Lord told me to tell you." Call it what you want: arrogance, Christian elitism, whatever! But this strong feeling of dislike became worse after I went public with AIDS. Everybody had the solution to my problem. Often they'd start the sentence with, "You know the Lord can heal you of AIDS."

Many times they'd come rushing up to me after I finished speaking with their revelation. I'd stand there graciously, but what I really wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs.

I know, I know. I sound like one ungrateful woman. I do understand that they are only trying to help ease my pain. But curing me? Gee, thanks. Don't judge me first, just try living in my shoes and see how YOU WOULD FEEL. In the early days of my ministry, I became really frustrated with people telling me what God could do for me, like they knew this for sure. I read the same Bible. And now, having gone to seminary and earned a Master of Divinity Degree, I detest it even more. I mean, why do you think that I don't already know about faith? My life is an example of faith, don't you think?

But in those earlier days of my popularity, so many people approached me about being healed that I started to wonder, "Had I missed something in my Christian walk?" Just the thought of it bothered me. With all the experts I had encountered on my miracle, I thought that maybe I was doing something wrong. So like with most things, I took my concern straight to the source. I started to have long conversations with God about it all. It went something like this:

"Hello God, these people say that you can heal me of AIDS. So, what do I have to do to get this particular miracle? I mean, they keep quoting the scripture, "Ask and you shall receive." (Mat 7:7) I asked, but I still have AIDS. Do I need pray a certain way, or at a certain time, maybe like Hannah at the altar?" (1 Sam 1-20) No joke, sometimes you just have to lay it out to God, and I did.

It is all so maddening. I know that there are miracles in the Bible of both the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. And that made matters worse. With my all Biblical knowledge and people pushing their faith onto me, I was frustrated. One day a person even told me, "You should stop taking your HIV medication so when the Lord heals you, people will really believe that the miracle was of God." I stood there with a blank look on my face. "I don't think so buddy!!!! Is what I wanted to scream at him. So, I kept talking to God, waiting on the answer. I even changed my prayer. "Lord, just give me something to say to these people about my healing."

Then people started to cure me in my mail. I received 25 copies of this little booklet, "By His Strips We Are Healed". I screamed, "Pleeeease GOD tell me what I'm missing." That wasn't the half of it, I received long letters with Scripture I was instructed to repeat every day, tapes, oil and prayer clothes. People were determined to heal me anyway they could.

Then one day after what seemed like an eternity, God gave me the answer I had been seeking. I was in Washington, DC speaking at a church. That particular night, there was a lot of press covering me.

No sooner than I laid the mic down, a woman rushed up to me, "You know the Lord can heal you of AIDS." I got that look on my face, "Here we go again." I stood as she rambled and rambled on. "And it would be an awesome thing. With all these TV cameras and the press you get, you could go around the world and tell people how wonderful God is because He healed you of AIDS!" In an instant God spoke to my spirit, "I am a wonderful God, even if I never heal you of AIDS!" The testimony is: Hallelujah anyhow!

WOW! I was so overwhelmed tears starting streaming down my face. Of course the woman thought that her prophecy had moved me to tears. But it was nothing short of God sitting center stage in my spirit giving me with the answers that I had longed for. The easiest testimony on the planet is when God has done the thing you most wanted in your life. But can you love God in the midst of your pain? Can you love and praise Him when you are bearing your cross? I understood that day that my love for God was not predicated on my healing from AIDS. God is wonderful and sovereign without the extra that He gives to us.

Back to the healing, I had missed it all along. The miracle wasn't the thing that people had been trying to force on me, but something even greater. In some ways, healing me of AIDS was an EASY testimony, almost expected of God. But living with AIDS was an INCREDIBLE testimony. God gave me the greatest gift of all: the ability to live and thrive with an illness that should've taken me out of here many a day. And believe me when I say I should've died 16 years ago.

I had 3 bouts of PCP, the number one infection, at the time, that killed people with AIDS. You cannot tell me that I am not a walking miracle. I get it! I also get that we spend so much time expecting God to do what we want, we miss the wonderful things that He has done. I'm content with the miracle of my life. So what if it's a hard life, He continues to give me all the tools I need to maneuver through the wilderness.

PostScript: By the way, God didn't heal everyone. The Apostle Paul is one clear example. Paul had a thorn in his flesh. He asked God to heal him three times and each time God said, "No!" Christians are quick to quote from this text that the Lord told Paul, "My Grace is sufficient." But God also told Paul,"My strength is made perfect in your weakness." I know from this that when I am at my lowest point, God will do His best work. (2 Cor 7-10) My life is an example of God's Grace and Miracle working power.

I graciously accept the blessings that I do receive, rather than begrudged what I don't. A person can become bitter waiting on that one thing from God. And honestly, that one thing may not be the thing that you get. Don't let that one thing blind you of the wonderful way God is an actor in your life. God's ways are not our ways but I am grateful that God has given me peace and understanding. I can rejoice! Hallelujah Anyhow!

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Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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