Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Into the Quiet

One of the things I've struggled to understand in the Gospel stories is how all these men and women who are healed by Christ could simply walk away. They come, aching, crying out, and He heals them, and they go home. One declares that he will follow Christ, but Christ tells him no. Go home, He says, and the man does.

If God ever did such a big thing for me, I always thought, there's no way I could just walk away. There's no way I just go home. There's no way I could just say Thank You and get on about the business of living my life. 

There is no way to just say Thank You. Instead, these words become something you live.

I think the trouble most of us have in understanding how this really works is that we haven't had the big disabilities in our lives. We haven't had the story-defining depravities. Or at least, not so clearly. The blind man is characterized by his blindness; it's everything we know about him. The bleeding woman is known for her uncleanliness. The demon-possessed man in the cemetery is marked by his wild rage and his nakedness. And these persons have been this way for so long that this is all anyone knows of them; it's all they know of themselves. Some of these persons have been this way their whole lives.

When you have something broken that's this ingrained into who you are, it's different than the healing that most of us receive from God. It's different than recovering from the flu. It's different than meeting your growing financial needs. It's different even than remissing from cancer. It's different than the kinds of things that most of us know in our day-to-day lives; it's...pervasive.

Because stuff like this isn't just an interruption from your life; it is your life. A mild illness, a financial setback, trouble at work, a cancer diagnosis, loss of relationship, loss of possessions, all this stuff that we fight with on a regular basis is a distraction, at best. In these times, we feel like these things are keeping us from living our lives. They're just barriers. In the case of the blind man, the bleeding woman, the demon-possessed man, this is their life. It doesn't feel like there's anything on the other side of this just waiting for them; this is all there is.

Which is why this kind of healing is so different. It's not that the healing of God makes life better; the healing of God makes life possible.

And it's strange. There's this incredible anxiousness when life is about to change in such a big way. I can imagine the blind man's heart quicken as he prepares to cry out to the passing Jesus. I can see the bleeding woman's hands shaking as she reaches out to touch Him. We know the demon-possessed have screamed and been thrown into fits in these final moments of life defined. Something in the spirit knows that things are about to change. Something in the soul realizes that it's about to be over. Really over. 

Then it is and this incredible stillness comes to rest in the spirit. This comforting quiet overwhelms you. There's not a lot to do but to sink into it and simply breathe, and even that feels new. Like you've never done it before. And it's hard for most of us to imagine how this really is because we know what joy we feel when God grants us healing in the smaller moments, when He gets us back to living. It's exciting. It's incredible. It's overwhelming.

So is this, but it's also disorienting. It's like for the first time, you understand what life really means. The blind man sees a world he's never seen before. It's the natural reaction of the spirit, I think, to just start walking, eyes wide open, following the stillness wherever it leads. And this stillness often just leads away from everything, to a place where man can be alone with the miracle of himself. To a place where he can fall on his knees in thanks over and over and over again. To a place where life as he knew it doesn't creep in and distort the life that he's been given. To a place where he gets to do something new without the weight of the world bearing down on him. The spirit seeks the stillness, it holds onto the quiet, it is intoxicated by the fresh air. Man has not simply been returned to his life. No, this is beyond even that. His life has been returned to him, and it draws him away for awhile to a place where he comes to meet himself.

It's not just himself that he meets here; it is also his God. In this quietness, he knows more of Jesus than he did in the moment the Teacher touched him. In the stillness, his soul rests in the hands of the God who reached out to him. It's a holy experience, this stillness. 

It's still hard to explain how a man who has just received such an incredible gift can just walk away, how his thankfulness doesn't drive him to hang onto this Jesus and follow Him everywhere. Maybe it's better to say that he doesn't really walk away. He embraces the gift of God and lives his thankfulness. He draws away into life abundant, which is what Jesus promised anyway, right?

I've always struggled to understand why this happens this way, and although my words fail me, I think I'm starting to understand. It's one of those things you can only know in a moment when Christ does more than restore you to your life; you can only know it when He restores life to you.

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