Who am I? It’s the never-ending ache of a question. None more aching than is mine today.
I am infirmed by this question. Paralyzed. Unable to move.
So many have answered this question for me. Their words weigh me down. “Less than.” “Not enough.” “Unnecessary.” “Not of value.” “Unworthy.” “Burdensome.” “Invisible.” I am dormant, still, lame on this mat of other’s estimation of me. I protect myself with apathy. “Who cares what they say?” And because I do, my soul, and whatever fragments of dignity remain, atrophies. I can’t believe anymore that this—me—could be any different. The heart is deep asleep.
Days and months and years, nearly four decades pass in this sleepless, coma-like state of going nowhere as a nobody. I sit, day after repeatable day, being the only me I know how to be. Repeating mistakes. Making excuses. Playing the victim. Capitalizing on martyrdom.
One day, the guy everyone is talking about shows up at my pity party. He looks at me like he’s never seen anything so pathetic. At least that’s what I believe. It’s the expression of knowing—like really knowing me—that both repels and draws me to open my eyes, only just a squint. “Do you want to be made well?” I don’t know. Who would I be then?
“Stand up, take your mat and walk.” He seems to believe I can walk away from this mat and its limitations. I can be free. I can be somebody who has a reason to stand up and declare, “I’m sick and tired of this mat and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
But I don’t. I lay there, playing possum to hope. I can’t open my eyes to the possibility that I am worthy of his words. But they keep echoing, like a persistent early morning alarm. The mat is growing uncomfortable. I’m aware of the sores, festering and calling me to return to my sleep. “Stand up.”
It begins with a small, but stiffened movement. Somehow, I am on my knees, looking at the mat. “Close your eyes! Don’t look!” Humiliation burns upward, hot coals of condemnation searing my hands and knees, the past and all its accusations smoldering under the weight of my trying. The imprint of all that everyone ever said about me is visible, even through closed eyes; it’s scorched in the memory. “Stand up.” I hear his voice again and the sting of humiliation turns to the sweetness of humility as I realize he noticed me. All the others passed by with no offer of rescue, but he stopped and stooped and chose me. “Just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”
I know not how, but I am upright, looking at him—Jesus—right in the eyes. I am standing on my own feet, somehow feeling holy and blameless before him in love. They say nothing in life is free, but this is. Free and freeing. “Take your mat.” Roll it up. Every single word that has held together those pallets of sticks and stones and words that broke you. Roll it up. You won’t need it anymore. “As a plan for the fullness of time, to gather all things—lame men and mats—in him.” Bind up and throw out the past. The future is gathered in him. I am full of his hope and freed from the past.
I am awake. For the first time I am awake to a me I never knew. “Redeemed and forgiven, according to the riches of his grace.” Awake to a destiny I never dreamed of. “He destined us for adoption as his children…obtained an inheritance…according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will.” I am awake to a purpose, to the new possibilities tomorrow brings of being a somebody going somewhere. There is more to me than what is rolled up in the mat of my past. “Walk.” “Go on,” he says, “get going. Go be who I see you are.” I can walk…awake.
At last, I am awake to the me who has been seen and known and chosen. I am found and defined by him. I am who he says I am. Standing. Walking. Awake.
“So that we who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” ~Ephesians 1:12
*This story is really the lame man’s story of John 5. Yet, it’s also mine. Maybe yours.
Today I am linking up with She Loves/Magazine.Com. Hop on over there and be awaken by the beauty of other’s stories of hope.