Doubt and Suspended Animation (Daily Lenten Meditation)

Doubt and Suspended Animation (Daily Lenten Meditation) March 1, 2012

Throughout Lent, I will be posting short meditations on the Daily Office readings every day. Please journey and pray with me through these readings. To read previous Lenten meditations click here.

Thursday, March 1
Mark 2:1-12

“And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.”

All the paralytic could see were the straining faces of his friends as they lowered him into the crowded room from freshly cut hole in the roof. Under him, but out of sight, he probably heard the shocked gasps and the appalled voices of disapproval at the breach of proper decorum, this going outside the lines to find a way to the feet of Jesus.

In those few moments, suspended between the safety of his friends and the unknown of the room below, I wonder what went through the paralytic’s mind. I wonder if he second-guessed his own boldness, questioning in quiet terror whether Jesus would appreciate his rather unorthodox and audacious methods. I wonder if he spent any time calculating exactly how many months he would have to spend begging in the streets to pay for the damage he had just done to the house.

So much of life, it seems to me, is spent in this same kind of suspended animation., Lent itself marks such a season with its 40 days of denial stuffed between the Christian calendar’s two most celebrated seasons – Advent and Easter. It is the melancholy between the two triumphs, the mundane existence of trials and temptations sandwiched between the divine revelations of birth and death. Lent, in other words, is our every day lives in search of something sacred. As Christians, we always seem stuck between the divine and profane, heaven and earth, the ecstasy of faith and the mundane, relentless questions.

Faith has never come easy for me as an adult. The idea of God is often, for me, frustrating and unsettling as much as it is comforting. For me, it raises more questions about life than it answers. And it can be paralyzing. But like the paralytic in the story, I have often found the front door – and even the side doors – to the teacher blocked, stuffed with static bodies who won’t or can’t move. I know many who, like the paralytic, have arrived at the house of God only to find the doorway blocked. I know many who have once knelt at the feet of Jesus, but who have found themselves bruised and batter as they are jostled out the side door without so much as a sidelong glance from anyone. Generally, we are the ones who ask our questions and who don’t hide our doubts.

So, those of us who have a difficult time making our way through these doors, are forced to come up with a different way. We cut holes in clay roofs. We claw through walls and break windows. And we hope that, when we finally find ourselves lowered toward the one we are seeking, we will find welcome in spite of whatever damage we might have caused to the building on the way.


O God, teach us not to fear an untidy faith in you that sees value in the question, not just the answer. Help us to not to turn away from the faith with holes, for it lets the rain in, and the sun. Give us the courage not to give up when we find our way to you has become blocked. Help us, then, to create our own path to you. And God, may you give us strength equal to repair whatever damage we have caused with inspired improvements.


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  • Sue

    Beyond the shocked voices, not to mention the plaster dust and bits of whatever messing up everyone’s hair and all. And where did those people go directly underneath? Some had to go back out through that door. Thanks for making me slow down and imagine this, David. And also to see the parallels between those who are so desperate to get to Jesus that they cause a mess in the process. I’m also reminded of the woman who touched Jesus’ garment – didn’t want to cause a scene, but Jesus allows one, as if to further emphasize – it is never wrong to seek me.

    Now I’m thinking about it, it’s easy to see how often the disciples tried to keep the lid on things – what about the children who come to Jesus, for instance? So there’s a double encouragement here. First, not to be afraid of causing the mess (and like you said, be willing to help clean up) but also not to be welcoming of those who are coming in through the roof. To graciously give way and patiently wait. There’s room and time for all of us at the feet of Jesus.