It was a Wednesday evening, and I was on the way home from class at my martial arts school. I had spent some time after class catching up with a good friend, so my heart was light and my spirit open as I sped up the highway.
I was praying and thinking things over while I drove, processing a couple of weeks' worth of struggles and triumphs. Approaching my exit, I had a thought -- the kind of inexplicable, insistent idea that is part of God's voice to me, how he chooses to speak sometimes. The insistent idea, as it often does, just gave me a scripture reference. Mark 3.
I was still ten minutes away from home, so I pulled off the road to look it up before I forgot. It's been a long time since I read Mark, and I had no idea offhand what I would find in chapter 3. So in a deserted parking lot, under a handy streetlight, I got out my Kindle and its NIV bible, and found this:
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
The story goes on from there, with Jesus healing the man and the religious rule-keepers getting upset about it. But that phrase in the middle clung to my attention, what Jesus told the man with the withered hand. Stand up in front of everyone. I rolled it over in my mind as I pulled back out on the road for home, and kept rolling it over the next day, and though the next week. Stand up in front of everyone.
Stand up. In front of everyone.
It was Jesus who performed the miracle that day, Jesus whose power restored a withered hand to strength and usefulness. But because the man stood up, because he obeyed Jesus and stepped out in front of his community with his withered, hopeless hand, the entire community witnessed what Jesus did. Everyone in that place experienced the miracle, because the man obeyed Jesus and stood up.
Standing up is hard. Standing up in front of everyone, frankly, can be terrifying. If we have to, we want to stand up with our strengths, offering practiced and polished skills and hoping they will win us applause and appreciation. How much harder is it to stand up in our weakness? To put our worst parts on display? Our hopeless, withered hands?
That's what this space is for. I'd rather stand up in strength, but in truth I am weak. I'd rather lick my wounds in dark corners, but I hear Jesus calling me to bring them into the light. I know everyone is hurt, and sometimes all of us feel alone. But if one person stands up in front of everyone, maybe someone who is watching will be encouraged. If one person has the courage to say "I'm struggling," another struggling person may hear it and know they aren't the only one.
I don't know what Jesus has in mind. My job is not to work miracles. I'm the one with withered hands, and I'm standing up.