A few years ago I "met" Bonnie Gray as I started reading her blog "Faith Barista." A little over a year ago I started blogging and linking my posts to her weekly link-up. We connected there and Bonnie extended me the privilege of being in a group of women who were a part of her book launch team for her memoir, "Finding Spiritual Whitespace." If you haven't read the book yet, buckle up. It's not spiritual cotton candy. In it Bonnie invites us by way of her own self-disclosure to look at our own walk with Jesus and our longings and wounds so that we can find what it is He really holds out to each of us - Himself, and rest in our relationship with Him.
Now Bonnie is hosting a virtual book club which anyone can join in to be a part of a cyber-community going through her book together. I have read Spiritual Whitespace myself, bought it for friends, recommended it to others, read it aloud to women I mentor and am walking through it with a dear soul-sister friend of mine now. Every time I read that book it unearths me in the best of ways.
This week on her blog Bonnie shared a visit with her mentor and talked about a specific passage of scripture as it related to her feelings about longing for healing, but being attached to "the mat."
In John 5:5-8 we meet this man who has been laying by the pool for 38 years. 38 years!! Jesus comes to him and asks him a question ...
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Jesus asks, "Do you want to get well?" Isn't that a question for all of us?
I do want to get well, and yet I can fear, like this man, that healing won't be for me. It's for the others who are ready to dive in and seem to cut in line to get their share. It's for those more deserving. It's for anyone but me. "I have no one to help me," he says. How often have I thought that very thing. Feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders since around age four, I haven't always known what it is like to truly allow someone to help me. Maybe there were people around this man who would have gladly helped him if he had only had eyes to see. I know as I have healed, I have allowed more people to bless me and I have learned to be vulnerable enough to be incomplete, broken, needy and to receive. When I was truly hurting, I needed you to see me as perfect. I held on to my self-sufficiency and my ability to do it all. I longed for people to help me into the pool, but how could they when I wouldn't allow them near enough and they never saw my past my polished exterior to see my gaping need.
Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured. He never even got into the pool. Isn't that amazing! After 38 years of laying beside what he thought would be his solution, he finds complete healing without ever touching one drop of the water from that pool of hope. Sometimes I'm laying around, like this man, though my "laying around" is way more busy and frenetic than actually sitting still somewhere for 38 years! I, like him, have tried to put my hope in something I can see and touch. Read more, pray more, lose weight, get to bed on time, drink more water, practice forgiveness ... and in comes Jesus, breaking unexpectedly into the traditional and saying, "Look over here, I am here and healing is with Me, not in these activities. You are waiting for the wrong thing."
He tells me to pick up my mat. This year I have spent time praying and thinking about what my "mat" could be. Like this man at the pool, my mat is comfortable, though it keeps me stuck. It is what I have known and relied upon while hoping for healing. It is my poor substitute for God Himself: Perfectionism, living up to external standards, caring what others think, fearing the future, fearing rejection - these threads make up my mat. To take it up is to let it go and to live without both the hindrance and familiarity of my woundedness. If only I were cured at once as this man was. Maybe his 38 years of hopeful anticipation paved the way for a quick pass to healing. In my case, the healing has come over time and with much sputtering.
Tonight as I sit here, pouring my soul onto paper, I am sure of one thing. There are two choices laid before me and you. One is to stay by the pool, nursing our woundedness and hoping for healing, but fearing it will pass us by, all the while relying on what we have known and grown accustomed to - our mat. The other is to take up our mat and walk into the healing journey Jesus is inviting us to take. For me this means putting on blinders and losing my care about what others are doing and what they will think. It means blazing new trails that bring me closer to Jesus. It means living a life full of "no" answers so that I can say "yes" to time with Him and a pace that allows for me to feel emotions and be present with others who are on their own healing and growing journeys. It means savoring my relationships (as Jesus savors His) and being authentic instead of conforming to the pattern of this world.
How about you? Are you feeling the knee-knocking call to bravery in the deepest places in your heart? Do you long to pick up your mat? Along with Bonnie, I encourage you to ask yourself, "What is my mat?" and "What would it look like if I picked it up?"
I'd love to hear from you here or on my Facebook page. I'd sincerely love to pray for you and support you as you courageously take up your mat.
I plan to blog bold and brave once a week on Thursdays.
Come back and join me anytime.
Linking up with Bonnie (again)