I drive to worship in the house of the Lord on a crisp October Sunday. It's time for brown leather boots and leggings under dresses. It's time for crunchy leaves underfoot and yellow, red, and orange confetti twirling to the ground from the windy sky.
The sermon comes from Luke 5 and details how Jesus heals a paralytic man. How those four men faithfully carried their crippled friend to be touched by the healing hands of Jesus. How those men never gave up- even in the midst of multiple obstacles. Those men busted through both a massive crowd and the actual roof to lower their friend into the home where Jesus was. Jesus first meets the man's spiritual need and forgives his sin and then shows the doubters a tangible sign of His authority.
Luke 5:24b-25: [Jesus] said to the man who was paralyzed- "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home." And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.
As the preacher continues to demonstrate how far these men went to get their friend to Jesus, I can't help but think how terrible it must have been for the paralyzed man to have to pick up the mat he had possibly been lying on for his entire life. The symbol of his identity as a paralyzed man. The only remaining piece of his former life. A painful reminder of the ridicule and judgement bestowed upon him by the people of this time.
And yet Jesus said pick it up, and take it with you.
If I was this man I may have doubted Jesus in that moment. I may have hesitated. I may have thrown that mat down in triumph and ran away from my past. Away from the reminder of my old life. And yet the healed man obeys Jesus and picks his mat right up and takes it home with him.
Some commentaries suggest the mat gave opportunities for the man to give all the glory to Jesus when people saw him carrying around this old mat. To glorify his great God. The mat is a visible reminder of not only what he was saved from, but the new life he was saved to. His new life with Jesus alongside.
I have a hard time with objects and reminders of my pre-divorce life. Furniture. Blankets. Photographs. Emotions. Songs. I'd rather not be confronted with pieces of my past. I'd rather leave every bit of it behind and start over. What would I be giving up if I pretend my pain never existed? If I threw that mat down and ran away from reminders of God's miraculous care for me? What would I be denying if I ignored the past five years in which God has taught me who He is, and who I am?
I'd be giving up an awful lot. Growth. Progress. Faith. Perseverance. Understanding of God's perfect love. Perspective.
God wants us to pick up our trials. Pick up those painful experiences and take them with us. Not to dwell in them or drown in their deep waters, but to be who you are now. We can't go back to who we were before, so why try? Why deceive yourself into believing that you can be sanctified and more Christ-like without the refining fire of God's careful, and very deliberate furnace?
The paralytic man never thought twice about taking that mat with him. I'm not sure what he did with it. Jesus told him to take it home. Jesus gave him a constant, visual reminder of the miracle that took place in Capernaum that day.
Painful experiences never truly leave us. Grief continues on... even when we feel like we're finally over it.
Accept it. Give God the glory for His endless heart-healing love. For His unending presence. Don't deny the past it's healing power out of desperation to "move on" or have "closure."
That pain is part of who you have become in Christ. Strong. Trusting. Faithful. Beloved. Pick up that mat. Take it with you. Hold on to the miraculous provision of our great God who weaves our story together perfectly for His glory and our growth.
Linking up with #livefreethursday today! Check out Suzie's new study on 'Moving Past What You Cannot Change'.