I asked someone I respect recently if they had a suggestion for what book of the Bible would be good for me to start studying for my situation. The answer: ask Holy Spirit where He wants you to read. So I’ve been doing that and it is AWESOME. I will be the first to admit that more often than not, I am so distracted by the voices calling out to me in this world that it is hard to hear what the Spirit is speaking to me. But what a comfort that He IS always speaking – always trying to warn, comfort, help, guide, and remind me of truth and righteousness. And what a comfort to know that if I don’t hear anything, it’s not because He isn’t there and speaking – it’s because I am not listening closely.
The other morning I actually got up a few minutes before the kids and decided to take full advantage of the quiet. I grabbed my Bible and asked God where He wanted me to read today and I heard “paralytic man”. Okay, yes! This is good! I can hear you!
I love this growing relationship with my Dad. I flipped to Luke, excited about why I might be going to this passage again. I’d read about the paralytic man recently but knew if God brought it up, there was more for me to learn. I read the passage and this verse was highlighted for my heart:
“But that you may know that the Son of man has power upon earth to forgive sins, I say to you, Arise, take up your mat, and go…”
The mat! What was the mat? The mat was what the man had been in bondage to. He lived on it, depended on it, and I’m sure it felt like a part of him since it was so closely intertwined with life as he knew it. I asked God to show me more about the mat and scribbled down what I heard:
- Pick up what you’ve been laying on, relying on, and carry it; it’s done carrying you.
- You are no longer bound to this mat. It used to determine where you could go but now you get to pick it up and tell it where you are going.
- The mat will no longer dictate your freedom, you ability, or your mobility. It will not set parameters for your life any longer.
- That thing that at one time you could only lay on – sick, in fear, and in bondage – is over. I want you to pick it up now and do what you couldn’t do before.
This flowed into thoughts of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14):
- The thing you’ve been drowning in that seems so deep and enormous and powerful? God wants you to walk on it.
- In both instances, the only way to do the impossible – the thing that brought freedom – was to keep the focus on Jesus and what HE said.
- Jesus told a man who couldn’t walk to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk. In the natural, the man didn’t have the resources he needed to do this – muscle strength and memory, balance… but He acted on the words of Jesus and left paralysis behind.
- Peter had never walked on water, had never known anyone else who walked on water, and knew what happened every single other time anyone had touched the surface of the water… Jesus invited Him out of the boat to do what looked impossible.
I wonder how much we miss out on because it seems impossible. Or because it hasn’t been our experience and we don’t see it “working” for anyone else. How many parts of the Bible do we skim over because they don’t seem plausible or possible in this day and time? Too much. I’ve missed out on too much. I can put the blame for every one of my choices on God and shove it under the blanket of the concept of His “sovereignty” (one of the most mis-used terms in the church today – you can read more here or here and hold these up to the Word of God). Or I can look at God’s Word and see that He has always wanted the best for me all along – a best that many people would call “impossible”. I haven’t been waiting on Him. He’s been waiting on me.
Life off the mat or life outside the boat is scary and I venture to say that far too many of us are living in the relative safety of bondage. It’s predictable, we know what’s required, and so often it even weaves its way into our identity so that we would feel incomplete without it. What is the mat you’re laying on? What is the boat you’re living in? For that matter, what is the label you’ve placed over your life? This is how you see yourself. Are there any labels you’ve been hiding behind or (be honest) even waving as a badge of honor that are holding you back from who you know deep down you were created to be?
Maybe you’ve been lying on the mat or huddled inside the boat for a long time – it’s hard to even form a mental picture of what anything else would look like. But God wants to paint a picture on the inside of you of what the true you looks like and it’s His Spirit speaking through His Word that will begin to add the brushstrokes. My friend, if you surrender those labels to the One who created you and ask your GOOD Father to show you the labels He wants you to have, He will. He will start to paint a picture of someone you might have never known even existed. It will be challenging, and sometimes painful, and oh so freeing to let go of what you have always known and step out into the vastness of freedom and trust.
Ask God to help show you what needs to be released to get there and – I dare you – look only to the Word of God and what His Spirit reveals to your born again spirit through it to build your new identity and life on. The impossible is possible with Him and the freedom to walk and the feel of the waves are even more exhilarating than they ever were frightening.
Let God paint a new picture on your heart of the YOU you were created to be. And be prepared to get up off the mat and out of the boat.
You were made to be the head and not the tail, above the circumstances and not beneath them – above the water, carrying the mat.