Unimagined

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“There is in Jerusalem near the sheep-gate a pool surrounded by five arches, which has the Hebrew name of Bethzatha….One particular man had been there ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there on his back—knowing that he had been like that for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to get well again?”

“Sir,” replied the sick man, “I just haven’t got anybody to put me into the pool when the water is all stirred up. While I’m trying to get there somebody else gets down into it first.”

“Get up,” said Jesus, “pick up your bed and walk!”

At once the man recovered, picked up his bed and walked.”

 – from John 5, Phillips paraphrase –


Thirty-eight years. That’s how long he had been hoping. Everyday, his body lay, with its withered legs, near the holy pool that some people said was touched by angels. He’d seen some of these healings. The water would swirl and agitate, shouts and delighted screams would rise up all around the rocky ledges of the pool where others like him sat and waited on angels. A fortunate blind woman with a guide or someone who had just arrived leaped into the pool. Their tears and laugher were answer enough. He’d seen blind eyes open wide, no longer milky and opaque–healed.

He’d rehearsed the moment again and again. Adrenaline surged in his veins when he thought about it. Next time…maybe next time he could drag himself into the pool in time. Maybe next time, he could be the one laughing and crying with joy.

Then a stranger comes walking through the bodies of the suffering. “Don’t you want to be healed?”

“There’s no one to help me get in the water,” the cripple replies. Maybe he scowled, wondering who would ask such a dumb question. Duh. Of course he wanted to be healed. Why else would he park himself next to the healing pool, waiting for a chance to be well?

This is the good part! The stranger doesn’t say, “Okay, well, I’ll stick around and help you in next time an angel touches the water.” He doesn’t say, “Here are some crutches–these will help you get to the water faster.”

The stranger says, “Get up and walk.”

What? I wonder if the lame man was confused. Walk? But what about the Healing Pool? What about the way healing had always been done?

Can you hear the expectations shattering?

But he got up and started walking on legs that were no longer twisted and weak. He rolled up his waiting mat. He was done with the pool by the Sheep Gate. He was healed, no angel-water involved!

My favorite thing about this story is that Jesus, the powerful stranger, defies expectation. His solution to the problem was on a completely different level than the crippled man’s default solution. Who would have thought that someone could just say the word to straighten crooked limbs? Who would have thought that no holy water or angelic visitations were needed?

Who would have thought that all he had to do was encounter Jesus?

I make the same miscalculation as that lame man did. I get used to one way of thinking and imagine it is God’s only solution. I set my expectations, calibrate my reality, and think that I’ve got the ways of the Lord just about figured out.

But then, I wait in vain for the heavenly visitations or the stirring up of something miraculous that I can grab hold of on my own.

When Jesus comes by, I don’t always automatically think, “I want to be well.”

Often, I’m thinking, “I don’t have any help getting to the pool” and “This plan isn’t working out. Everyone beats me to the miracle.” Like the cripple, I’ve sometimes looked at my own problems so long that I can’t see other ways of escape.

But then Jesus presents an alternative: “Get up and walk.”

Oh. You meant, just get up? Just walk? No water gushing, no magic wand or swooping angels, no ritual to perform? Just get up and walk?

I wonder what preconceptions are keeping us from getting up and walking? I wonder how many solutions we need to put aside in favor of a God-given solution?

Our dear Father God is more than happy to hear our cries. He doesn’t always answer right away–after all, this lame man waited 38 years for that moment of healing, when the perfect time had come. And physical healing is not always His plan, either. This lame man could best glorify God by getting up and walking. A modern-day quadriplegic, Joni Eareckson Tada testifies to His faithfulness another way. In her book A Place of Healing, she says:

“Little did I know…that in due time, God would heal me–but on a level I would have never dreamed….I found the very peace and contentment that had eluded me. I also found joy, simply because I had embraced His will for my life.

And what is His will?

That you and I be in the best position, the best place, the timeliest circumstance in which God can be glorified the most.

For me that place just happens to be a wheelchair.

That happens to be my place of healing.”

What I learn from this story of the crippled man is that we dare too little. We think too small. We plan and theorize and, in the end, God staggers us with His wonders.

Sisters, we don’t have to be anxious about all the pieces of life that don’t seem to be falling into place. We have such a tiny perspective. From our view, we can’t see any way for our needs to be met.

But the One in control doesn’t have the same view as we do.

He has plans so wonderful that we can’t imagine them. He doesn’t need matter to speak a world into existence. He doesn’t need our help to meet our needs.

We don’t need perfect plans. We need to encounter Jesus, expecting glories that we cannot imagine.

He won’t disappoint.


“I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement—that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!

Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine—to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen!

 – from Ephesians 3:14-21, Phillips paraphrase –

 

 

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Interruptions or Adventures?

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“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
― G.K. Chesterton―


Recently, I stumbled across a Youtube video of well-known Christian comedian Mark Lowry. I haven’t heard much of his comedy before. In fact, I don’t think I even finished the video clip.

 The only reason I mention him now is that the idea for this post came from him. On this video, he began talking about the things that we perceive as important, compared to God’s perspective. As we look at this idea together today, I just wanted you to know where I got the foundational theme for today’s post, as well as several of the Scriptural examples. While I’m not much of a Mark Lowry fan, I think there is quite a bit of truth in this particular observation.


Interruptions. Yuck.

They’re everywhere, aren’t they?

Those people that pull out their cars in front of you like they’re racing to a fire, and then slow down to about 15 miles per hour (in a no-passing zone, generally). The impossibly-long lines at Walmart on Saturdays. The phone ringing when you were about to get to that one thing you’ve been wanting to do all day. The person who just won’t stop talking to you when you really need to be somewhere else.

Yeah, those. Interruptions.

Funny thing is, Jesus seemed to deal with interruptions differently than we do.

In fact, as Mr. Lowry pointed out, it seems like more interruptions made it into the Bible than planned events did (or at least humanly-planned ones)!

Jesus sails across the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, needing a break.

Interruption. In the form of over 5,000 people (Matthew 14:13).

Jesus heads for the house of Jairus the synagogue ruler–and a woman crawls out to brush her fingers against the hem of his robe (Mark 5:21). Interruption. Incidentally, the gospel writer records as much about the newly-healed woman’s interruption as he writes about the miracle of Jairus’ resurrected daughter.

It’s almost as if God knows how preoccupied we get and arranged His book with subtle reminders that we don’t have it all figured out.

I’ve had plenty of interruptions in my life. How about you?

I’ll get things all squared away and nicely organized…and then life stampedes through and tramples my best-laid plans. But…funny thing…in the end, I’m usually glad. I don’t always get to see the whole picture, but every once in a while, God lets me see a peek of what He’s been up to in the things that I call roadblocks, interruptions, or inconveniences.

I want to look at interruptions differently. Instead of bewailing the changed plans, I want to see something else: people in need of a surprising, spontaneous dose of love.

I want to be like Jesus.

He was teaching in a house when suddenly the thatch was snatched back and the plaster crumbled, and a cripple dropped down from the sky. Lowered by four audacious friends. Interruptors of Jesus’ sermon (Mark 2:1-12).

Interestingly — as the comedian’s video pointed out — the Bible doesn’t even bother telling us what Jesus was preaching about. Instead, we get an up-close view of the interruption.

I think God likes interruptions, actually. I think He likes to shake up our lives a little — not in a petty or vindictive way at all, but in a fatherly, teaching-moment sort of way.

Interruptions are moments that God reaches down and reminds us that we aren’t in control after all — He is.

Interruptions are God’s gentle — or sometimes not-so-gentle — way of realigning our priorities with His.

Take the night that the outcast woman slipped into Simon the Pharisee’s feast. She started crying all over Jesus’ feet, dumping a fortune’s worth of perfume on them, and mopping up the pungent puddle with her unloosed hair. (Luke 7:36-50). Talk about an interruption!

Simon was horrified — this sinful woman was in his house! And she had the audacity to sob at his table, badger his dinner guest, and smell up the whole room with her fragrant gift. Interruption indeed!

But Jesus? He commended her, looked on her with love. She was no interruption to Him. She was no accident. She was a Divine appointment.

For Jesus, interruptions were no surprise. He’s God, after all. These events — seemingly random interruptions — were on His day planner all along.

So how do we — since we can’t see into the future (much less control it!) — act like Jesus when it comes to these moments that take our lives by storm?

Since we’re not in control of those “interruption” moments, but we know that God is…why not see them differently?

Instead of grumbling and getting bent out of shape when things don’t follow my day planner, I can beg for the grace (and the desire!) to stop and breathe, to really, truly SEE people and opportunities.

So…next surprise schedule change, next out-of-the-blue flat tire, next interminable line at the grocery store, I pray that my attitude will be less me-centered and more Christ-centered.

Forget my boring little plans.

Tomorrow is packed with adventures planned out by my all-wise Father.

So what do you choose, by God’s grace? Inconvenience or adventure?