The Taser's Edge


Which Is Easier?: Divorce, Forgiveness, and Healing

The Gospel According to Luke 5:17-26 (ESV):

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

In the wounded state in which the end of my marriage left me, my friends brought me to Jesus, and I knew that I wanted Him to heal me. But when Jesus looked at me and said, “Your sins are forgiven,” I realized that that was what I had most wanted. The desire deeper than my desire to be healed, a desire I had not known I had, was to be forgiven.

Why, consciously speaking, did I have the desire to be healed, but not the desire to forgiven? I wanted His healing because I could feel my hurt every day and every step and almost every breath, a spiritual nerve damage. I did not want forgiveness because I did not believe it was possible for me to be forgiven.

Many people have noted that evangelical Christians tend to focus on certain favorite sins, especially those with any connection whatsoever to sex, while mentally marking others as less important or less harmful. I thought I was good at avoiding this particular trap until I found myself getting divorced, and I found I was incapable of believing that God forgave me. When I tried to believe, my imagination sputtered, died, and rolled to a stop. Loss of imagination is more than a foggy, moonless night. Loss of image-ination is the definition of blindness.

How broken was the body of the man whom Jesus forgave and healed? Was he born this way? It’s hard to believe that he could have survived into adulthood if that had been the case. Did he have a degenerative illness that we could name today but still couldn’t cure? Did he have a spinal cord injury?

To “rise, pick up your bed and go home” requires balance and the finest of motor skills along with that bundle of motions we call the ability to walk. Think through all of the motions and muscle groups required to stand up from the floor, kneel down and roll up some bedding, stand up again, then bend over to pick up that mat and carry it over your shoulder to walk home. These are levels of restoration happening in the human body that we still could not explain.

And yet forgiveness is the miracle, what Jesus extends first and what even the Pharisees and the teachers of the law know is something only God can give.

To receive forgiveness in the places we most need it is not only a passive reception but an act of the will. We don’t even know if the paralyzed man believed that he was indeed forgiven. I do will to believe and more and more I succeed.

I cannot offer enough gratitude to all those who carried me to the Healer and who strengthened my will to believe that He was also a Forgiver. Thank you.

Healing High Five!

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The Fear of Freedom

How hard it is to be forgiven, how hard to be healed, how hard to be free. I’m not talking about being the provider of those things (which people often talk about). I’m talking about being the one in need of them.

Imagine an animal which has grown up in captivity and then is released into the wild. In the best case, it is harder than we can imagine. And sometimes, perhaps most of the time, the journey from captivity to freedom is just impossible. Death comes first.

Now imagine those folks healed in Jesus’ ministry. The man lowered through a ceiling with the help of his friends. The blind folks reduced to begging because there was no other place for them in their society. Zacchaeus who had to leave his old way of life behind after his Jesus encounter. The woman who had had five husbands, was forgiven, and then told to go and sin no more. Lazarus, raised from the dead. Not to mention every single disciple.

Is it really possible to re-enter life after that? Or, rather, what life is it possible to enter? And why doesn’t Jesus say anything about it? Why doesn’t he mention at all how hard life will continue to be for the man whose life has given him no apparent skills but the ability to find a good spot from which to beg for others’ charity?

Now think of a loved one or an acquaintance who has a chronic health issue, the person who suffers from cystic fibrosis or kidney failure and needs an organ transplant in order to survive. Even if the operation goes smoothly, and the recovery progresses beyond all expectations, that organ recipient will need to be on a constant pharmaceutical therapy for the rest of her life. And beyond that, what does it mean for someone to have been shut out of life as they wanted to live it for years or even longer, then suddenly to be given the gift of reentry to “normalcy?”

What do you do if you’ve been disabled for as long as you can remember and then one day you are fully able to get a job, support yourself, re-enter the life that you had longed for, make choices unbounded by so many chains that have suddenly (or not-so-suddenly) been shattered? It’s not only muscles that atrophy and waste away. Hopes and dreams do too.

All this is to say, no one ever mentions that healing sometimes makes life harder. Remove all the hurts and fears and impediments which have so long blocked living into the fullness and freedom of the abundant life God has for us and…prepare to be terrified.

The exhilaration of forgiveness, healing, wholeness, and freedom is directly tied to the possibility of falling and being hurt again. It’s the difference between the excitement of jumping and the excitement of flight.