I have always loved and appreciated my friends, but after this season I have come to realize that this life can not be done without them. We have never been surface friends, as I like to call those relationships that I will not ugly cry in front of, they are the ones that know the nitty gritty of me yet still love me just the way I am. For years those friends would know when I was at a low point, whether in physical health or something entirely else, when I would disappear for a bit. My answering texts would become far and in between never mind actually picking up the phone. Visits would seize and in essence I would go dark. I retreat into myself and like to "deal" with whatever on my own. I have always been that way. Those times are what probably led me into depression years ago and why over the years it was hard for me to hold onto very many friendships for very long. This season has been different. I am not sure if it was out of sheer desperation or what, but I reached out daily and maybe even multiple times a day for help whether it be for prayer or a chai latte. Those friends are the one that held me up when I could not do it on my own. They truly are a gift. During prayer this week I came to realize that this is the way God designed it and I was getting in the way of that design. I did not want to burden anyone too much or for too long. I did not want to be the friend who continually was in struggle. Yes, they new my battles in and out, but instead of waiting for them to call me out I came to them first. I let them in my messy moments instead of sharing the victory after.
MARK 2: 1-12
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 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.
I love this story in the bible where a paralyzed man was being carried by men to see Jesus. When they could not get to Jesus the conventional way they created an opening in the roof to deliver him to Jesus. These men could not have been any ordinary men, but men that loved this paralyzed man deeply. It did not say his brothers or father, but men. I can only assume these men must have been friends, because of the length that went to get the paralyzed man to Jesus. They were willing to dig through a thatched roof to lower him down. Have you seen a thatched roof? I have on mission trips and in order to be an effective roof to keep the weather out it has to be thick and strong. These men took the time to dig through, probably encountering pain along the way, in order to make a hole big enough for a man to be lowered through. I can see myself in that paralyzed man, maybe not in the physical sense, but I too can be paralyzed. Paralyzed by fear, sadness, sin, longing, etc. In those time when I feel paralyzed, just going through the motions of life without feeling or not focusing on Jesus and instead focusing on distractions I need my friends to dig me out. To get their nails dirty, cry with me, pray with me and sometimes just bring me a chai latte, make my favorite tacos, send the most perfect book to me at that perfect moment or send pictures of their baby's bum dimples because that can only put a smile on your face. The story continues on...
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus saw the group of friends who believed so deeply in HIM and loved their friend so much that they were willing to fight through a thatched roof to give their friend a chance for an encounter. Jesus saw their faith... Not just the paralyzed man's, but theirs. Jesus then proceeded to forgive the man's sins, not his body, at first. Jesus shows us that the forgiving our sins is more important. Setting our hearts and spirit free is more important. It is what leads us to a life of freedom.
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 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? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 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!”
After being questioned Jesus then healed the man's body. Not first, but second. The man took up his mat and went home. Not to over shadow the healing that was done. A man who was a paralyzed in the physical sense could walk again, that is huge. I feel the mat the man carries out is equally as important though. Could this mat represent not only the literal mat he laid paralyzed on, but could this mat also be a sign of hope? That no matter what is weighing us down, no matter what leaves us feeling paralyzed in the world, that through Jesus we can pick our own mats and walk forward. It may be on a bumpy ugly road full of dust, but we can walk forward. That we can take up that mat and take those steps to freedom. We just have to be willing to grab that mat no matter how tattered and heavy it is and throw it over our shoulder and walk.
This man found freedom in Jesus and it all started because his friends took those steps with him, fought with him, and felt pain with him. I challenge ourselves to go deeper with those friends we have. The ones God put in our lives. We don't have to live a life of perfection or alone. That life can be hard. Let's choose to walk toward freedom hand in hand with our eyes focused on Jesus.