Sometimes it is an act of surpassing bravery to get out of bed and face life-as-it-is.
as told by Deborah
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after being away for several days, people heard that He was home. A large crowd gathered, filling the room and spilling out into the street, in order to hear Him speak the Word to them.
A small group arrived, four of them carrying a paralyzed man. When they couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they went up on the roof above Him and began to dig. When they broke through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Some of the religious authorities who were there began whispering together, “What’s this guy think he’s doing? It’s blasphemy! Only God alone can forgive sins!”
Jesus immediately knew what they were thinking; and He said to them, “Why do your hearts question this? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?” They looked at Him blankly.
“Well,” He said, “In order that you will know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins —" He turned and spoke to the paralytic: “I say to you: stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”
And there, in front of everybody, the man immediately stood up, and picked up the mat and went out; so that they were all amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Once again large sectors of the western region of the U.S. are burning. And once again we stand in awe of — and in gratitude for — firefighters; those holy lunatics who willingly confront literal walls of flames. Intentionally. On purpose. By choice.
Their actions save the lives and the homes of furred, finned, and feathered creatures — as well as we thin-skinned ones who dress ourselves in clothing. These holy lunatics risk injury and even death to rescue and protect people they don’t know and property they don’t own. It is a blessed, holy work.
I call them “holy lunatics,” because firefighting is a darned crazy thing to do. From our earliest days we learn to avoid direct contact with fire: “Hot. Hot! Don’t touch!” It can burn, and maim, and destroy. With sufficient fuel, a tiny spark can become a virtual towering inferno. But these mad characters grab their gear and fearlessly race toward dangers that most of us would run away from.
Firefighters aren’t really fearless, for that would truly be insane. They are neither foolish nor mad. They are aware and mindful of the dangers they face, but they do not let that knowledge rule them. They go forth — trained, prepared, and determined that they shall conquer the flaming foe.
We see them at their work and shake our heads in amazement. Wow.
Yet we mustn’t forget that these are not alien beings possessed of superpowers; they are people, just like us, regular folks that we may meet on the street — with the same skin and bones and muscles, hearts and minds as ours.
Although firefighters’ courage is unique in its application, it is not unique to humanity.
All of us have the capacity to act with courage; to face danger resolutely, to be brave in spite of our fears. Many of us have done, and perhaps are doing so this very day.
For much of life requires courage, strength, stamina… hope, faith…. Our days are rarely simple, even less often are they stress-free, but filled with challenges and choices. We are called to go forth — despite fear and frustration, sickness and sorrow, loss and loneliness. It is not easy. There are times when simply getting out of bed and facing life-as-it-is seems an almost-impossible task.
Which brings us back to the fellow who was brought to Jesus, unable to rise from his cot. We know him; we know his story — if not the specifics, certainly the effect of them. We’ve all been where he is.
We know what it is like to be overwhelmed; not knowing what to do, where to turn, who to trust. We understand how it feels to be paralyzed with anxiety, exhaustion, or indecision. We know the temptation to climb into bed, pull the covers over our head, and stay there.
Life swirls around him as he looks on with a dull, detached stare. People are talking and laughing, arguing and complaining — to him it is only so much white noise, signifying nothing. Humanity, filled with energy, emotions, interests and concerns, seems confusing, incomprehensible. He is insensible; isolated, insulated, numb.
A man speaks, and our paralyzed friend stiffens in anticipation — but the voice does not seek to goad him to action or summon him to a task; surprisingly, it asks nothing, demands nothing.
My cherished, dearly beloved child, your sins are forgiven.
The words strike the man’s heart, reverberating like a church bell, their impact bringing tears to his eyes. A long-forgotten sensation stirs in his chest: joy, fluttering. He blinks and looks up at this man, this Jesus, who speaks to his soul, who cares about his soul, who heals his soul.
Jesus gives peace beyond understanding: a freedom excelling all others. Chains broken, demands silenced, faults erased, crushing burdens lifted.
Your sins are forgiven.
The weight of the world is not yours to carry. Let it go. Otherwise it may crush you.
It is not that we should stop caring about the things that go on in the world, only that we stop carrying them. Our task is to be here; present and prayerful, cherishing the gift of our lives and of one another — and that is enough. More than enough.
The challenge and the grace is to take each day as it is, at this very moment. We are to be present and mindful, not engaging in pointless, unrealistic efforts at Time Travel: revisiting the past or imagining the future.
Jesus said to His disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me."
~ John 14:1
A contemporary translation might be: “God is in charge, and I’ve got your back. Believe it.”
Jesus’ words of forgiveness are a release and a healing gift to the paralytic — and to us: “All shall be well. Whatever happens, you are in God’s care and in Mine. Trust and believe. Let go of the fears and frustrations that crush and cripple you.”
And so it is: Jesus heals the man’s soul and then empowers him to stand upright, and then …. sends him home! We may be a bit underwhelmed by this; half-expecting the Lord to say to him: “Follow Me.” Instead, Jesus sends him forth, into the Vast Unknown of daily life, requiring perhaps the greatest faith and strength: the quotidian courage of being in the world.
There, where he has been sent forth, the man may very well do “greater things” than the miracles that our Lord performed — perhaps knowingly, perhaps inadvertently, simply by being. Just being.
When I was a little girl, my dad had a long daily commute requiring that he left the house shortly after six o’clock in the morning. My mom always got up to fix his breakfast, and occasionally I would slip out of bed and, blinking in the glare of the kitchen lights, be allowed a tiny sip of Dad’s coffee, as the radio played “Music ’Til Dawn.” It was simply life as it was. Nothing exciting, nothing dramatic.
Several years after we moved from that neighborhood, the lady who had lived across the street surprised my mother by telling her that she had saved her life. It turns out that Norma had been dealing with extremely difficult issues and suffered from anxiety and insomnia, and there had been days when she felt she could no longer hold on. “But then I would see the light in your kitchen window," she said, "and it was such a comfort, just knowing that you were there.”
Sometimes we bless others by simply being. No glory. No drama. No photographs or articles in the news. Just arising from our beds and turning on the light can lift others up with hope and encouragement.
Each day’s arising is a victory and a gift.
Like holy lunatics, we go forth to bravely face dangers and threats, possibilities and problems, great beauty and grace, and blessings and joys. There is no knowing what we may encounter, but we can be secure in the knowledge that we are not on our own: the Lord Christ has our back, and will keep us safe. He is the Light of the World that shines, always.
May that holy Light warm our hearts and illuminate our lives,
Hurray! You are here; right where you ought to be. Look into the mirror and give yourself a cheer. Go on, you deserve it! Rejoice in the day (and the person!) that the Lord has made.