I am re-reading Mark. John’s my favourite gospel guy, followed by Luke, but the immediacy of Mark, our immediate immersion in a fast-moving scenario of accelerating success grabs me every time.
Jesus issues his great call to repent and believe the good news.
He heals most everyone, dramatically, and so “news about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” He became the Obama or Daniel Radcliffe of his day, “As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly, but stayed outside in lonely places. Still, people came to him from everywhere.”
* * *
And then in Mark 2 1-12, so many gather to hear him preach the word that there was no room left, not even outside the door.
(I have just been to hear some amazing speakers and miracles workers, and I can testify there is the same spiritual hunger and over-crowding today.)
And though it seems unfair, the pushy, the hungry, the desperate are often rewarded. That’s one of Jesus’s puzzling sayings, “The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Matt 11:12.
So instead of being polite, waiting their turn, which surely seems to be the right thing to do, his friends cheekily dig though the roof, and lower him in.
And, remarkably, and encouragingly for all those who pray for their families, or do prayer ministry, Jesus heals him because of the faith of his friends.
And—whoa!!—what interesting words of healing
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”
And those words, the forgiveness of sins, heals the man’s paralysis.
* * *
A river is a consistent Biblical metaphor for God—leaping, rushing, dancing, forceful, iridescent, full of energy.
Never stagnant. Never “paralysed.”
Mental and emotional paralysis, or paralysis in any area of one’s life, does not comes from God, in my opinion. The first chapters of Genesis give us an insight into God’s nature—imaginative, fun, creative, thinking, making, shaping, active—then punctuating six days of activity with a day of complete rest, when “he rested from all this making.”
No paralysis there!!
* * *
When my daughter Zoe was born, I often wheeled her around in her stroller to put her to sleep. (We never let our children cry themselves to sleep—I considered that unthinkable—which, of course, meant hours of walking or driving or holding them to sleep, or sleeping with them. Or vice-versa. Very undisciplined.)
I had four major areas of need or “paralysis” which I used to ask for God’s help with as I pushed Zoe in her pram.
1) My writing, in which I was paralysed and perfectionistic, and worked with much painful second-guessing and perfectionism, and without significant output.
2) Housekeeping. My house was messy, and disorganized, and this upset me.
3) I was a night owl, and so woke late, and this is not the most efficient thing.
4) I was overweight.
* * *
Over the last 18 years of following Christ with wobbles and falls backwards, I am glad to report that my writing is flowing freely. The house is no longer embarrassing. It’s not immaculate, but not messy either. We tidy every room at least once a week (well, Roy does.)
I don’t wake early, but not ridiculously late either.
But weight! Alas, I am at my heaviest ever. I am failing.
And I don’t believe God intends this paralysis or failure.
* * *
And Jesus, mysteriously, heals the man’s physical paralysis, by forgiving his sin, and he walks.
Is this a key? Repentance and receiving forgiveness to break paralysis in any area of our lives. Paralysis like Paul describes in Romans 7 when one knows and loves and desires what is good, but does not have the power to pursue it.
* * *
Obviously, being overweight is not a sin, any more than being paralysed is.
But, in my case, sin has led to it.
1) Using food as an all-purpose anaesthetic, when sad, angry, stressed, depressed, low-energy, listless, bored, or fed-up.
2) Eating because I enjoyed the taste of good food, even when not hungry. Eating foods not good for my body.
3) Putting off exercise because reading and writing were more interesting.
And, so I spent some time today repenting of these weaknesses, and asking for the blood of Christ to wash these sins away, and to filled again with the spirit of Jesus, so that I remember to turn to him instead of chocolate when sad, stressed, angry, bored etc.
That I remember to respect my body and not give it excessive yummy stuff that is not good for it.
And the empowering of the spirit that I will make myself exercise even when the laptop and books are more tempting.
Jesus, heal this paralysis.
* * *
I am reading The Anointing by R.T. Kendall. The Anointing (among other things) is a divine enablement which makes the difficult easy. Kendall stresses the need of getting a fresh anointing every day, so that we do not continue using powerful spiritual gifts (preaching, let’s say, or writing) in our own strength.
I think it’s the same when breaking free from an area of paralysis in one’s life. You repent; God forgives you; gives you his Holy Spirit on request, (Luke 11:13). But you are not yet home free. You need to continue asking for fresh grace, fresh strength and enablement.
I have read testimonies of alcoholics and drug addicts or heavy smokers who have been instantaneously healed from their addiction. I myself have experienced a grace-enabled kicking of a coffee addiction.
Perhaps healing from something which has put tentacles into the very way you function, such as emotional eating or using food as an all-purpose anaesthetic can come all at once.
Or perhaps, step by step as the powerful waterfall of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace breaks down the last filaments of bad habits. Perhaps, it’s a daily process—just as acquiring knowledge or physical fitness or a godly character is a long process. You sometimes tire, sometimes rest, but you keep rowing.
But slow, or fast, Lord, heal me. Let there be no little strongholds or holdouts to your full reign in me, body, mind, soul and spirit!