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Friday, November 29, 2013

spiritual paralysis

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.  Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
     Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
     Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?  But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12)

Imagine being one of the guys carrying the mat of this paralyzed man.  What do you think it would've been like to be on this journey?  What do you think was their main motivation?  They must have cared deeply for their paralyzed friend to have dreamt up such a scheme.  We are not told how many of them there were in total, only that four of them were carrying him.  Did they switch off?  Or did these four carry him the whole way?  And how far did they have to carry him?  It must have been exhausting.  And can you imagine getting to the house and realizing that you couldn't get inside?  What now?  And who was the one to come up with the idea of going to the roof?  And how did the homeowner feel about that when he saw pieces of his roof falling to the floor inside?  And after all of the hurdles were cleared, and their friend finally lay at Jesus' feet, how did they feel when they heard him say the words, "Son, your sins are forgiven."?  Did they think to themselves, or say out loud for that matter, "It's his legs.  The problem is with his legs."

But Jesus knew better.  Jesus knew that the real problem was much deeper than his legs, because his paralysis was only a symptom of a much larger issue--as it is with each of us.  Our paralysis, most likely, is not physical like this particular man's, but it is no less a reality.  Our paralysis is most likely emotional and, ultimately, spiritual.  But at the root of this paralysis, as with the man in Mark 2, lies the issue of sin.  The two are intimately linked. 

Now I do not know what your paralysis looks like, it is a little different for everyone it seems, but I am pretty aware of my own.  I usually only recognize it after it is a good bit down the road; after the gravitational pull of the old self towards darkness, sadness, loneliness, and depression has been going on for a little while and I am beginning to feel a little stuck.  It is a downward spiral really, but a slow one that I do not recognize until a good bit of life and energy has already been drained out of me.  And maybe the most telling sign is a feeling that I have lost some sense of being able to "Get up."  It's like something has grabbed hold of me and is weighing me down, and "getting up" (whatever that may look like) feels like an almost impossible task.  And it only seems to gain momentum: the longer it lasts, the stronger it seems to become.

Luckily Jesus knows the link between, "Your sins are forgiven" and "Get up, take your mat and walk."  He knows that the deeper issue must be taken care of before the more surface issues can be resolved.  He says to me, "Son, your sins are forgiven." just the way he did to the paralyzed man.  He reminds me that, first and foremost, I am his son and he loves me immensely.  This knowledge empowers me by speaking to the true self that he has created me to be.  This truth cuts right to my core, reminding me of who I truly am, as well as who I am not.  His love and his forgiveness then offer me the strength and ability to do what he desires for me the most, to Get up, take up my mat and walk.  It is as if he were saying to me:  "Do not sit any longer in this helpless paralysis, for I have given you my love and my forgiveness, which breaks the chains of your stuckness and allows you the ability to rise and leave the mat, and the paralysis, behind and walk in newness of life."

Therefore I must listen to his call daily to do just that...and I must respond.  I must consistently choose, by his power, to Get up.  

In the process, I also need to pay careful attention to the typical patterns of my heart and soul, and constantly be asking myself several diagnostic questions: When am I at my best spiritually?  When I am thriving spiritually, what factors are consistently present?  When am I at my worst?  And what factors contribute most significantly to that?  What are my warning signs that I am slipping into darkness and spiritual paralysis?  What are the things I must do regularly to create the space that helps keep me (by God's grace) in a good spiritual place?    

And then, in the end, maybe my result will be much like his: He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”  Thanks be to God!

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