Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Proud of my Limp

Being touched by God is no easy thing. To be sure, it is a good thing. But though we desire it so much, we have no idea how much it will cost. So though His touch could be inspiring, generous or healing, it could, for at least a little while, be challenging; or downright miserable as He changes, enhances or even eliminates our hopes and desires.

In Genesis 32:22-32 Jacob, the third member of the second most famous trio in the Bible, wrestles with a Man for an entire night. As daybreak approaches, He requests that he let Him go, but Jacob refuses. “Not a chance. I need your blessing first, than I might.” Jacob needed a blessing so badly, he was willing to use all of his energy to get it.

And what a blessing it was. After wrestling with the Man, Jacob (a name that means ‘follower’) was re-named Israel (‘Struggles with God’), received a new outlook on life and a very soar hip-flexor muscle. And he had a limp to prove it. God never minds if we wrestle with Him because wrestling brings us close to Him, right where He wants us.

Thousands of years later, God continued to touch people, reminding them that he is the only way they can live a wholesome life, whatever type of limp they may receive. Matthew 9:23-26 is the second half of a double healing that Christ performs as he leaves his hometown of Nazareth. He has just healed a woman who has been bleeding internally for twelve years, and is receiving an ecstatic response from most of the people who believed the woman’s story. However, a doting father, who has previously begged him to come and raise his dead daughter back to life, is not worshiping, but weeping. “Hurry up, Teacher! I need you to do this now!”

Ancient Israel believed that after a person died, the life-giving spirit could possibly return if the right person could be found to bring it back. So time was ticking. This father, who was also a ruler of the people, was most definitely excited that he may have found the man who could possibly do the job. However, he was more than a little anxious that Jesus would work just a little bit quicker: “She died this morning and it is already evening, so please hurry!”

When Jesus finally arrived at the weeping father’s house, many were already there weeping along with him. But Jesus would have none of it. Apart from a few disciples and the child’s parents, Christ demanded to the crowd, “Leave us! If you can believe it, the child isn’t dead. She’s just taking a much needed nap.”

As you can expect and may already know, the crowd didn’t believe it, but laughed at Him instead. As Luke writes, when they were alone with the sleeping child, Christ took her hand and gently beckoned her, “Wakey, wakey” (Luke 8:54). As the grinning father left his house with his living daughter in his arms, he may have asked the bewildered and speechless crowd, “Who’s laughing now?”

I can only imagine what the rest of her childhood was like. Not many of her friends could boast that they had been raised from the dead. Not many fathers could say that they had seen what he had. But there were not many men who had walked the earth before Christ did, who could perform works like these. And though in the end, the girl died a second time, the touch she received from God incarnate instilled in her, and her father, a knowledge that she was truly loved by Him.

In Acts 9:10-19 Saul is touched and healed from his blindness by Ananias, a believer from Damascus. Ananias was worried about going to him because Saul was infamous for arresting and persecuting members of the early church, and it only makes sense to stay away from people like that. But the Spirit gently commands him, “Just go, for I will use him to do great things, and they won’t be easy.”

So, Ananias, shaking in his sandals, does what he is told, and his obedience ultimately changes the course of human history. He allows the Holy Spirit to use his hands to restores Saul’s sight. In time, Saul’s name changes to Paul (which means: humble), and Saul accepts a new commission to take the Lord’s message to the Gentiles, to kings, the people of Israel, and later to us.

Though Saul’s first limp, (his blindness) was temporary, he later had a second one. 2nd Corinthians 12:7 says that Paul forever had a “thorn in [his] flesh” as he wrote much of the New Testament behind bars. But like no one else before or since, Paul learned and taught us what it means to be joyful always; [to] pray continually; [to] give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) I am still hoping to fully learn what this means.

Any touch from God is awesome, but each comes with a cost. Jacob received a limp and a new name when he was touched by God. Once she took hold of Jesus hand, the girl had an understanding that she was loved and a new story to tell of God’s goodness. Saul’s sight was restored, and Paul endured his limp gladly for the remainder of his days.
What about you?

Ø As Jacob did, are you willing to struggle with God to receive His blessing?

Ø Will you have faith with the ruler that Jesus can restore the things that seem dead and gone?

Ø As Paul did, are you able to accept the limp you have as a blessing?

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed, if you look within you’ll be depressed, but if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”

Corrie ten Boom