One of the things that strikes me as odd in the Gospels is how willing some of the recently-healed are to walk away from Jesus. Granted, He often tells them to go - go to the temple, go back to your family, go home - but I don't know just how willing I'd be to listen.
Part of that is because I shudder to think we come to an understanding of Jesus where we come to Him in desperate need, are filled, and simply walk away. I don't like the idea of a vending machine God. I don't like the idea that we come and go as our needs dictate. Shouldn't it be about love? Shouldn't our relationship keep us coming and going?
Part of it is that when God does something so powerful in my life, I know that I have a lot of follow-up questions. I do! I want to know why God chooses to work in me and not in the next person. I want to know why He can even look into my fallen eyes. I want to know what He sees in me that I don't yet see in myself. I want to know what He plans for tomorrow. I want to know what He has to say about yesterday. I want to know what worth and worthlessness are. I want to know what mercy and grace mean. I mean, the gift is nice, but it leaves me with all of these questions that lie somewhere between my torn flesh and touched spirit.
And part of it is that I just don't know if I could ever leave the presence of God. Of course, there's a lot of theology here about the Holy Spirit, but at the time of the Gospels, there was no Holy Spirit. Not in the way that there is now. There was, certainly, a spirit of God among the people - it's how we have prophets at all whose stories tell us some of the history of God. But there wasn't that indwelling, personal, intimate gift of the Spirit that guides those of us who believe upon the resurrection. Jesus heals these men and women, then looks at them and says, "Go..." and I, like one of the disciples, want to cry out to Him, "To where would I go?"
To where could I possibly go from here? From this moment? From this powerful encounter with the living God?
To the temple? Do I go to the temple? Lord, You are the temple. There is nothing more sacred in the Holy of Holies than there is standing before me in the Son of Man. Jesus has just broken the laws of the universe by healing a broken man, and now I, that man, am supposed to submit myself to the law once more to make the required provision of cleanliness? It makes no sense. Lord, if You have made me whole, You can make me righteous. Do I go to the temple? How could I?
To my family? Do I go back to my family? Lord, You are my family. You are my Father, and in Your Son, my Brother. My family...must still think me diseased. They have to. At this point, it's easier for them than to ever believe I might be coming back. It's easier for them to keep their distance than to dare to come close. I have been unclean for so long. I have been so removed for so long. To run home, it disturbs my family. It disturbs me. Can I take my healing into a broken place? Can I be a clean man in an unclean history? I can't, Lord. Do I go back to my family? How could I?
To the city? Do I go into the city? Lord, there is a city among You. Look around. There are hundreds upon hundreds of people here, all gathered into one place. A little community all in itself. The city? It's such a busy place. It's changed so much since I've last been there; I don't know that I could even keep up. The people there, they haven't been here. They don't know the same story that I know and they wouldn't believe me if I told them. I'd be just one more voice in a bustling bazaar. Here, my words resound with the faithful; in the city, they are drowned out by the noise. Am I supposed to go to a place where even I cannot hear me? Lord, if I stay, at least I can hear You. Do I go into the city? How could I?
It's so hard for me to think about walking away, even when Jesus tells me to. My spirit cries out, "Lord, to where would I go?" And yet, neither can I imagine telling Him no. (I can completely imagine arguing with Him, laying out my excuses, my opposition, telling Him why I don't think walking away is such a good idea, begging Him to let me stay, asking for just a little while longer in His presence....) But really, apart from what He requires of us - to love Him and to love others - God only asks two things of us: come and go.
To where will I go?
Wherever You send me.