I've read of lepers healed, those the Lord willed to make clean. There was the one who was grateful and nine who were not.
But I've imagined another--the 11th leper.
Perhaps he was neighbor to the woman who had the issue of blood, or an acquaintance of the man who waited by the pool. He heard of miracles, felt his need for one, but this leper had no friends to carry him to Jesus, none who were enterprising enough to tear up a roof and lower him down.
He always sought the Healer but never made it. Perhaps he was late. Too slow. Or the crowd was too great.
Or perhaps he travelled slowly--painfully--from far away, seeking the rumored rabbi with the healing touch. He might have travelled by night, avoiding the gaze of others, the cries of "Unclean!" the scattered shower of stones. He may have found darkness best to hide from himself.
He arrived too late. Passover had passed. Some said Jesus was dead; others said he lived again. Regardless, he was not there. Gone.
Perhaps the leper followed the truths the gentle Galilean left, finding some degree of transcendence and hope.
But the hard truth is that this leper was not healed, not because his faith had been wanting but simply because of an accident of time and place. But for that, he would have basked in the healing love that others experienced. That bitter irony must have made his suffering more acute as he lived out the rest of a wretched life.
Crawling, cringing, trapped in his own decay. He'd hide from others, but mostly from his own reflection, aware of his repugnance, deeply conscious of the foulness within and without. Wallowing in this mire of misery, his life may not have been long, but must have felt unending to him.
Eventually he died, finally coming face-to-face with the Lord he had sought but not found. He opened his mouth to ask, "Why, Lord?". He was ready to weep in accepting arms, ready to unburden himself of the years of suffering and sorrow. But once again, he was too late. For, in that moment, he realized he had nothing left over which he could weep.
He was home. He was whole. His nightmare was over, a fever dream fast fading.
He couldn't remember, and it no longer mattered, what his--or anyone else's--suffering was. Because now, it wasn't. It was no longer. Gone. Forever.
The healing rushed in reverse, a flood that blotted out each memory, and covered each scar.
In a way he felt he'd always been healed.
As eternity stretched before him in a long, unbroken sunrise, he realized it had only begun.Bright, fresh, and beautiful--just like him.