Paralytically Speaking

If people would ask me how I feel about the event of my daughter’s paralyzation nine years ago, I might want to say a lot of things. One is that it makes me sad in waves of sorrow. Periods of time the waves are calm, others tempestuous.

I am sorry I am sad. I feel somehow it is less spiritual, or at least perceived as such. It lets people down, and misses their mark of Christian virtue and victory. The grief has not dissipated, it is more manageable. I would also like to quickly follow it with the assurance that indeed my faith has both been challenged and strengthened, that I am grateful for the experience and lessons in a way that is bittersweet and humbling. That God Almighty is much more All-mighty than I’d known, and I love Him more because of it.

I am often bewildered by the workings of God. I have a deeper appreciation of what I do not know and cannot know until I see Him face to face. And, I look forward to that much more than before, possibly more than most people would feel comfortable with.

This morning I read a passage that adds to my confusion, and to the assurance that not understanding God is a good place to be.

Recognizing He cannot be fathomed does not diminish Him, rather exalts and enlarges Him.

John 5:1-5 recounts the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man.

Picture Jesus at the local Sheep gate pool called Bethesda. Likely the pool had springs thought to have medicinal value. It had five porches. “A multitude” of sick people lay on mats under the porches. Each one waited for a miracle, a stirring of the waters, and a new life.

The caveat, it seems, was that only the first one to step (and here I remind you that many could not “step” at all without the help of another) in the pool when the waters agitated received healing. Why? Can you imagine the competition, vying, positioning? Can you envision what emotions seethed under immovable muscles, pain and rotting skin? Surely disappointment, anger, disillusionment, and despair visited Bethesda’s waiting room.

Talk about inequality in health care. What happened to the one that came in second and hit the water disabled and unable to save himself?

“When Jesus saw him lying there…”

Jesus noticed one man out of a multitude of blind, lame, and disabled. All waited for the same thing. Why did Jesus pick him out of the crowd?

“and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition…” 

Of course Jesus knew. He supernaturally knew, created and knit him together in his mother’s womb. He had a plan for his life. He knew his story. He knew about the man’s faith, and about other people’s expectations of the man’s faith. He knew how many times he’d prayed and hoped for healing and been let down.

Thirty-eight years is a long time. It has been nine years since a brain stem lesion robbed my daughter of movement. It’s a very long time. I like to think He picks her out in a crowd, that He sees her and knows her.

And then Jesus, all knowing, all wise, asks a puzzling question. “Do you want to be made well?” 

The man responded: “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

It was a broken system.

Jesus said, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” (v. 6-8; NKJV)

Why? Why was that unnamed man chosen to be written about in the Gospels, forever memorialized as healed by Jesus?

I imagine the man, like my daughter, had almost forgotten the natural impulse of  swinging legs around and standing up. It hadn’t happened in thirty-eight years after all. I imagine he met Jesus’ eyes, and the miracle happened.

The man responded immediately. He was healed. He got up and gathered up his bed. He walked.

Can you imagine the hush and the swell of voices?

That is the end of the written story. What happened after? How many lives did his healing touch? I am left wondering about the eyes that followed the former-paralytic as he walked past, bedroll under arm, while their bodies remained still. I think about who had been on his left or perhaps the child on his right. I wonder about the blind who couldn’t see, but heard the scene described from others, awed and amazed. I wonder about the multitude that remained waiting for another day, hoping for their miracle, calling out to the Master.

And I am sad for the mother of three little girls who happen to be my granddaughters. But I am short-sighted.

My daughter teaches me this from her unenviable platform.

“I had a thought that was incredibly encouraging to me. If I ever have those days when I wonder, why me or how terribly unfortunate…I need to remember God chose me, gave me the incredible privilege of walking this particular path. He has allowed me to experience the depth of my need for Him every moment. How could I ever look at this wheelchair with anything but gratitude that He reached down and saved me from what I deserved and gave me the privilege of experiencing the incredible peace and love that only He can provide?”  Charity George.  (CharityGeorge.com)

Jesus does all things well.

*video done in 2011, four years after the event.
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