The past several months has been excruciatingly painful. Many of you have had to deal with one sad story or another. You look through your windows as seconds roll into minutes, and minutes into hours, and you ask yourself, "What next?" There is this bit of you who was used to the rhythm of life - a busy life, if I may add, a few months ago. But now, everything has changed... everything is now different. You yearn for the old rhythm, and you feel helpless that the old life is slipping right through your fingers and you cannot do anything about it.
During this pandemic period, I have had the chance to run, jog, walk, and bike. Sometimes I walk by myself; some other times I'll walk with my son, James. There are also times when I walk while he rides his bike, and there are days when we ride our bikes together. Having the chance to indulge myself in these activities has also given me the opportunity to deeply reflect on what God wants of me, what God desires of me, and what God is calling me to do.
More importantly, I have asked myself, not once, but on several occasions, "Who does God want me to be?"
One of the blessings of these turbulent times has been the gift of offering Morning and Evening Prayer online. Whenever I lead either Morning or Evening Prayer, I offer a brief devotion or homily. Yesterday, long after the service was over, I reflected on the gospel reading for that day - Matthew 25:31-46 - which is about the separation of the sheep and goats on judgement day. During my time of reflection I was reminded of another story in Matthew 9:1-8; this one is about a paralytic who could not walk, but because he had friends who could walk, those friends carried him on a mat to Jesus. The desire of these friends was to see their paralytic friend walk.
It occurred to me that the fact that we can walk does not mean that everyone can walk. The fact that we can run does not mean everyone can run. The fact that we are healthy does not mean everyone is healthy. The fact that we have three square meals a day does not mean everyone has three square meals a day. The fact that we may live in a decent neighborhood does not mean everyone lives in a decent neighborhood. The fact that we are not in shackles does not mean that everyone is free. The truth is that we have the capacity and the ability to be so many things to so many people; we have the power to carry the paralytic to Jesus, but the question is, do we have the desire to do so? Do we desire restoration for the paralytic friend who cannot walk?
As I pondered over what God is calling me to be or who God wants me to be, I had an epiphany. It dawned to me that the ultimate offering lies in a deep-seated desire to carry others - friends and strangers, alike - to a place of restoration, refreshment, sustenance, and healing. In a way, it may not be the act itself but rather the desire which precipitates or drives the act. That, to me, is a different way of looking at life.
I am thankful for that burning desire within that drives everything. It causes us to look at life very differently - not only from the perspective of being able to walk, but also of being unable to walk, as well. The question then is, "What drives you?" if I may ask. What motivates you? Is it the desire to see your friend walk? Or is it about being indifferent over whether your friend walks or not?
Perhaps you may also ponder on what I learned many years ago: lions and sharks are professional hunters, but a lion cannot hunt in the ocean and a shark cannot hunt in the jungle. But the fact that a lion cannot hunt in the ocean does not make it useless, nor does the fact that a shark cannot hunt in the jungle make it useless. Both have their own territory where they can do well, where they can hunt successfully. Which territory brings out the best in you? Is it when you want to feel good? Is it when you want to feel fulfilled? Is it when you want to show off? Or is it when you are driven by a desire akin to the four friends of the paralytic?
To be that person God wants us to be, we must have the mindset of those four friends of the paralytic. We must be driven by a strong desire to see our friend walk. It is possible that the four friends knew that our circumstances don’t determine the quality of our lives, but that the manner in which we process those circumstances determines the quality of our lives, and determines whether we have the desire to see life’s inherent beauty.
Frederick Langbridge, a poet, wrote this: Two men looked out through prison bars; one saw mud, the other saw the stars. Although both men were in identical circumstances, their perspectives were entirely different. One looked for beauty and found it; the other focused on ugliness and found it. Do you see beauty, even in the midst our pandemic, or are you completely sapped by its negative energy? Do you see the paralytic friend amid the pandemic? What drives you?
To be the person God wants us to be would mean recognizing that although a rose may smell better than a tomato, it does not mean the rose can make a better stew.
May your prayer be that of the friend who carries those who cannot walk to Christ our Lord.