“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.” Thomas Merton
The first gag woke me from a deep sleep. It was a little after midnight and I had fallen asleep with my little boy. When I opened my eyes, he was sitting up, whimpering, beside me. And then he spewed. Hues of red and orange and pink collided with his white sheets as I leapt from my spot! “Oh no! Aww! I’m sorry buddy!” I hate it when he’s sick.
I snatched him up, under the arms, and held him at a very comfortable distance from me. We bolted for the bathroom. We put hardwood floors down in his room before he was born, for the ease of clean-up. Hardwood floors are perfect for a time like this. The only problem? we left proof of his dinner down the length of the cute little rug his Mama bought to keep our toes warm in Winter.
We cleaned him up. He did it again.
Lindsey put a towel under him the third time.
The towel caught everything the third time. “Great idea, babe! I sure am thankful for the towel!”
Sounds like life, right? We don’t want to step in someone else’s mess or get their nastiness on our hands. Even if they’re someone we love, often times it seems much easier to hold someone at arm’s length, until the worst is over.
- Who really wants to get caught up in the details of someone’s affair?
- Do you want to be the one to support the needy friend or family member night after night?
- The kid who hasn’t been to your youth group in over a year? You know the one. Is it really your job to go chasing after him? He knows where to find you. He knows you’ll be glad to pray with him. He knows that you know Jesus.
They all know that you know Jesus.
In the book of John, chapter five: Jesus was at the Pool of Bethesda, a well-known spot for healing. Many ill people hung around the water, just watching and waiting for their chance to stand in the swirling waters and be healed.
One particular man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, but he hadn’t received his healing because no one would pick him up and carry him to the water’s edge when it began to swirl and stir. Jesus heard the man’s story and said, “Get up. Take your mat with you, and walk!” And the man did.
What was different?
The man didn’t even have to step into the water.
He didn’t know it, but what he had really been waiting on for nearly four decades was for someone to come along and say, “It’s okay.”
He just needed permission.
The man had been an invalid: sick and unable to care for himself.
Pronounced another way, the word means something totally different. Invalid: not valid. Lacking substance. The sick man needed someone to validate him. To confirm him. To approve of him. He needed someone to tell him his life had purpose. He was longing for meaning.
As Jesus spoke, I imagine the man heard something very different than a simple, “Get up and walk”. I think he probably heard something like this:
You have believed your life hasn’t mattered for far too long. You have worth. In spite of your past, your imperfections, and what everyone else thinks about you, I am giving you permission to get up and walk away. Get up and leave this place and move on. Be different. Be new. Don’t look back.
Others threw down a towel to catch the man’s mess, but Jesus came along and embraced him with a second chance. Jesus didn’t even address the man’s issues. Jesus wasn’t blind: I’m certain He noticed the guy’s problems. But Jesus loved beyond the labels. He saw past the illness, to the heart of a human being, who had been created by Love.
In recognizing the man as a person, Jesus helped him find purpose in the midst of the struggle. In finding his value, the man was able to see himself as an equal for the first time in his life. And that may have been the greatest grace of all.