The Hardest Commandment You'll Ever Have to Follow

Originally published Thursday, 25 April 2013.

The bravest man in the New Testament is the one who picked up his mat.

John 5 gives a snapshot into the lives of the people living near a healing pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. It was a place of healing.

And on the blistery, stormy April-in-Virginia-Beach days (like today) I like to picture Bethesda as a little glimpse of Eden. Paradise-rewritten. Vibrant, tall trees, crispy-fresh fruit, and a waxy-crayola-colored green grass shooting up by the banks. 

Apparently, getting healed by this pool was like some sort of relay race. The waters would stir, and a pack of people would run. First-come-first-serve. Whoever reached the pool first would be healed. 

I'm sure there were mad-dash days, like children, the sick would run in a pack toward the moving water screaming: C'mon guys! First one in gets healed of all their infirmities!

But there was always one man left behind. A man who had been sitting by the water for over 30 years, unable to walk. 

Then, one day, Jesus noticed him and asked him if he would like to be healed. He replied with a complaint (not even a ), explaining that he was never able to reach the water first.

To this, Jesus replied, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!" (John 5:8).

Then, the 38-year invalid decidedly stood, picked up his mat and shuffled along. I like to picture him walking away while his little flip-flops made a rhythm of exaggerated ! behind him as he took his first few steps by the muddy banks of the Bethesda community pool.

And right now, as I sit in my own little corner, on my own little mat, I think this man has the greatest faith in the whole world. Because a random man by a pool told him to stand. And then he did.

Honestly, there are some things in my life that I need healing from. That I need to be released from. I want to be able to reach Bethesda, to stand and walk again after being emotionally paralyzed.

And when I pray---or , more like---about these things, I distinctly hear a calling. A voice tells me to just pick up my mat and walk. 

But, I can't just yet.

The thing is, we all have our mats. We all have the paralyzing places of hurt and insecurity that we perpetually return to. I wish I knew why. Maybe it's because it feels so good to hurt. It feels justified to complain and set up half-hearted camp by a place that is rumored to heal. 

Maybe we're scared to leave our scars behind, because if we're ever released from them, it would unravel our sense of knowing exactly who we are.

I don't know about you ladies, but I don't want to be stuck by a supposed place of healing, complaining that I can never be first in the water. I believe in a God that says that healing is a straight-forward as obeying a simple commandment.

Pick up your mat and walk.