Kinds Of Paralysis
Mark 2: 1 - 12
There are dozens of kinds of paralysis. There is the paralysis of fear, where we just can't stand up for ourselves. We can't get out of our own way. We substitute ourselves for God and act like we are alone -- even though we are not.
A New England farmer shows us what I mean. A stranger passed by. and said, "What a great farm you have here. "Yes, said, the farmer
-- and you should have seen it when God was doing it all alone."
Like the two old salts who pulled in to the Booth Bay Harbor in
Maine. Notorious as a difficult sail, the harbor that morning was
extraordinarily complicated. Fog had set in. Homer told Elmer he
better get down on his knees and pray. Elmer obeyed, and lo and
behold, the fog lifted. Homer wasn't anywhere near to close to
dock when he said, "You better get up now, Homer. We don't want to
be beholden to nobody."
We don't want to be beholden to nobody. We are so deep in fear that, like the school yard braggart, we act like things are all up to us. That we are in charge. God is not fooled or charmed: God knows that we aren't built to be in charge or to be alone. But that rarely stops us.
These self-serving assumptions finally takes us down into an utter loneliness. But rarely do we know how much we need to hear from God until we fall. We think we make our own way. When we hear the word, "take up your bed and walk" or "your sins are forgiven", we are astonished. There is a break-through. With the disciples, we say, "we have never seen anything like this."
God pierces our paralysis with the courage to walk and to courage to accompany God. Fear disappears.
Those who know real fear are often the most grateful for their healing. I heard a community policeman speak in Chicago recently about his home on the South Side of Chicago. His voice had been recorded. He had done everything he could to save his home from violence -- and at age 25, he was shot dead by a drug dealer. But not until he had
recorded a speech in which he said, "I live in the best
neighborhood in the best city in the world. I saw rock and rubble,
crack and kids with the light in their eyes gone out. He saw the
best neighborhood in the best city of the world.
You and I could learn from Richard Morales. We could learn to live
where we are and to want what we have. We could keep our eyes less
on a better neighborhood and more on the neighborhood we have.
Fear doesn't have to stalk us. We can be free of fear.
Douglas Hall , the New Hampshire Poet, speaks of the loss of his
wife, Jane Kenyon, at age 48 to leukemia. She had a remission for
two months the year before she died. In his poem, he screams, "Why
was I not content then?" He knows what we know. We have the two
good months, right now . But we may miss them.
We can learn to want what we have. To live where we are. As Sweet
Honey and the Rock sing, we are the people we have been waiting
Fear may not be our paralysis. Ours may be the paralysis of genuine disease, where something has turned our body into weakness.
We need the help of our friends. We need to be taken to a healer. We need to be told that we are still God's children. We may have come to think that somehow we deserve our pain. WE DO NOT. Our healing may not get us out of a wheelchair but it can get us out of our guilt. There are lots of meanings to "stand up and walk
The association with sin and illness is common in the gospels. Often Jesus heals with the words of forgiveness, rather than words of simple healing. Often we participate in our own unwellness, sinfully, as in losing hope, or losing the memory of how tall God wanted us to stand.
Instead we stand by on our life. We put ourselves on stand by. Like
the people in postcards on the edge, we write, 'Having Great Time,
Wish I was Here." Or with Jackie Chiles in the last episode of
Steinfeld, we say, "Have you ever heard of a guilty bystander...a
bystander is by definition innocent."
I think not. A bystander -- especially if one is standing by on
one's own journey is anything but innocent. He or she is guilty of
missing life. He or she is guilty of the crime of not
participating. Of criminal indifference, one might say. Of missing
the train as it leaves the station. Of not showing up. Of not
being home enough inside to be at home outside.
There is also the paralysis of oppression, wherein something happens to us that keeps us from our God-intended tallness.
In Slavomir Rawicz's book, THE LONG WALK, a Polish nobleman ends
up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Stalin's army picks him
up in 1944 and Februaryes him and 3000 other unfortunates across
Siberia to a prison camp. Their labor is abused to mine the
riches of the Siberian world.
On their way into Siberia, the men are chained to each other.
Aboriginal Russians, riding reindeer, stop by their line. They
whisper in their ears the news that their forbears have seen
these Februaryes before. Thus they are commanded to set out flint
and food on their doorsteps, should the men ever desire to
escape. The flint is made of dung; they teach the men how to
make the fire out of dung.
Other crucial messages of hope come to the men in the line. A
German, who has been keeping track of the days, sings Christmas
carols on Christmas eve. The other men kill him: they don't want to hear the music. Many die on the route in to the camp.
Five men, including our hero, escape. They do what the short men on the reindeer tell them to do. They pick up the flint. They
then February through two winters and eighteen months to their
freedom in India. When the three survivors arrive, after a
hellishly long walk, which is accompanied by one adventure after
another, our narrator goes mad. Their story is recorded by the
odd circumstance of their having seen the "snowman" of the north.
Researchers tracking the snowman get the story out of the Polish
Nobleman. Our Second World War heroes lived on snakes
when they weren't running into a mad but generous shepherd on the side of a hill. Only three of the original five make the long
Few of us have been picked up by Stalin but many of us have been
picked up by flint left on the side of the road. A little light
has had to carry us a long way. A healing, wherein we are born by our friends, on a palette, releases us.
John Taylor Gatto tells of what happened after he bought his new
place. "For five years I raced around digging ponds, chopping
trees, clearing paths, pulling rocks, unclogging channels, planting
-- always making lists, plans, agendas, always improving things.
On day, after finishing yet another important project, I made list
of all the things I had left to do. According to my schedule, I
could begin enjoying my land twenty five years down the line.
Something was dreadfully wrong."
Sometimes the healing we need is simply to be here now, to be let down into a sun filled room, and to hear how much God loves us. We could love ourselves as much as God loves us!
What is healing? It is radical dependency on God.
We might think, as Anne Finger pointed out, in "Between Living and
Dying", that "some dependencies are O.K. and others are not. Its
OK to need a car; it's not OK to need a wheelchair. It's OK to go
to a hairstylist to get your hair done; it's not OK to need an
attendant to wash your face and hands." Being dependent on God is being healed. It is a good thing.
How do I know this? Because I know Jesus and what he accomplished
on his long journey home. When it looked like it was over, it
wasn't. It had only just begun.
We were just beginning our long walk after we were healed -- and after our sins were forgiven and we were given the chance by God to try again.