When I write I usually have music streaming in my headphones at the same time. It seems to be one of the things that helps me get in touch with emotions better, and express them. The act of blogging and walking in vulnerability has been cathartic thus far. I am amazed, and humbled that my words are resonating with so many.
The gospel of Mark recounts the story of a paralyzed man that was unable to walk. A crowd of people had gathered to hear Jesus teach at a packed house, as his reputation for helping people experience healing from their infirmities had grown in his ministry.
The specific story is about a paralytic who was “unable” to reach Jesus on his own because things were blocking his way. Physically his infirmities prevented him from getting the restoration he desired. So his friends, put him on a mat, and carried him to the house: Here’s what it says in Mark 2:
1-5 After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.”
(Mark 2:0 MSG)This changed when his friends chose to help him and lifted him into the healing waters. He needed friends, in his community to experience the healing & restoration that he believed was possible.
I see this same principals at work in our own process of restoration, and believe it is impossible to restore yourself on your own. Yes, God is the one who restores, however for that to become more than just a belief, but an experience you need friends willing to risk with courage.
- You need friends willing to vouch for your character,
- You need friends to give you an opportunity to rebuild dignity
- You need friends to assist you with practical needs of living, connect you with work.
Many in church leadership say nice words about restoration, and grace, but do not translate that into action. We have experienced this multiple times, frankly at nauseoum… Most, offer platitudes, “I’ll pray for you”, etc, but the unspoken message is this: once you hang on long enough & I can verify that you’re not a threat to me…when I’m no longer afraid of you…then I’ll help you. I understand this, because it seems fear controls the church more than faith does.
6-7 Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, “He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins.”
When the religious focus on the wrong areas (their definition of repentance for example…) they miss out on their opportunity to apply the Gospel by their lack of follow through of applying grace. This has been one of the most frustrating parts of our restoration process, the lack of redemptive community.
God loves us as much on our worst day, as He does on our best day. On your worst day, when you are wounded, hurting, addicted, stuck, deceived, paralyzed…that you need friends who will pick you up, carry you, lift you up, dig through the mud for you…so you can experience Jesus.
It is when the “man born blind” had his sight restored for the first time that he had his most powerful ministry. He didn’t need a waiting period to make sure the healing stuck. That’s religion, and modern day pharisaicalism at work in our church leadership that gives lip service to restoration, with no intent of really living that out.
8-12 Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, “Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . .” (he looked now at the paraplegic), “Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.” And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”
When we cater to the gospel controlled by fear and punishment, instead of living the Gospel we saw Jesus model, we lose our ability to apply true grace. It is high time we ceased our useless preaching about grace, and really any topic, and make our walk match our talk. Our preaching has become noise that adheres to a moral prescription of legalism, that does not lead to heart change, and frankly does not work. The Apostle Paul and Jesus spoke often about the useless focus on the exterior of people, the story of the “white-washed tombs” comes to mind especially…).
Our hearts desire is to see the landscape of christianity transformed through the application of real grace. Yes, selfishly we would love to experience our ‘brothers & sisters” in the faith step up and link arms with us towards this mission. When I was leading Celebrate Recovery I learned the phrase from Pastor John Baker that “God never wastes a hurt.” That truth was critical in my journey of repentance and healing. God may not waste our hurts…but people do…and they waste their opportunity to stand in the gap, instill hope, and dispense grace…often.
I believe that restoration between the Lord and I happened the moment I repented through surrender. Restoration in my marriage and family occurred through a process of confession, forgiveness, and rebuilding trust as wounds were healed. Restoration with my livelihood, (what I do for work and income to provide for my family), has yet to be restored. Unfortunately, the “church” has played a pivotal negative role ensuring that reality. Thus, restoration with the church is still a moving process. I had a great pastor friend of mine ask me, with surprise, “why I was still trying with church?”
I’m still trying, because God is not enough…as His people we are His hands and feet. We need each other. He wired us for relationship, and thus we heal in the context of relationship. We need to experience God via redemptive relationship with each other in a healing community. The church is meant to be a light house, a spiritual hospital if you will, to a watching world that readily shows up in the darkness, dispenses grace, and instills hope. That is why I have not given up yet.
One of the key things the ministry of restoration my wife and I hope to be able to provide for pastors and ministers who go through similar experiences to us, is practical support. By that I mean income via new employment, housing…typically when a pastor falls, he loses his job, his income, his influence… AND so does his family. Most do not understand this…especially restoration teams and church leadership.
Are you willing to risk getting your hands dirty for your friends? On your worst day you will know who your friends are, because they will be the ones who show up to be your advocate. They will be the people that speak truth in love, and dispense grace … who are able to see and treat you in way that communicates you are more valuable, than any negative choice you have made. They will apply grace, the same way Jesus did…and that’s who you should have on your restoration team.