You might be like that man in the synagogue. The crippled one. The man with the withered hand. This may as well be your name. It is the thing that defines you. This is what you carry with you—this disability that has sidelined every dream or plan and directed your life’s path. This is what you see:
You’re not asking for anything today. You don’t ask or expect anymore. You simply show up like you’re supposed to. You do all the things and you wait, though you aren’t sure why or for what. You’re used to being invisible. You prefer things that way. You stand near the walls, linger in the shadows. Unseen.
But today you are singled out. The teachers approach you with greedy glances. Why? What do they want? They point at you and question the Man who is with them about the law. What is this? You don’t want this attention. Panic rises in you until the man speaks. His eyes fasten on yours, and He sees you. He speaks of your value. You.
“Stretch out your hand,” He says, and slowly, fearfully, you do so. He does not take His eyes from yours. You feel the tingling of life, the sudden straightening of your bent flesh, the cramped and twisted fingers stretching out long and smooth. You look down to see you are whole. Then your astonished, tearful eyes lift back to His smile.
Maybe you notice the current of outrage around you. Maybe you don’t. It hardly matters. All you can do is stare at your hand. Soon you are surrounded by a hundred gawkers and cynics and well-wishers who ask you a hundred questions at once. Who was that man? What did He do to you? What did He say? How do you feel? Can you wiggle your fingers?
And in these moments, you begin to understand how your life has changed, how your very identity has changed. You are now the one who was healed. And it doesn’t matter that you never chose this. You are now the messenger of the only One who ever fully saw you. The One who knew your value. He has given you this gift: to be the one who knows you are loved and seen, to know the One who heals withered hands can also heal withered souls, which is the true miracle He did for you. You bear the marks of His love. It is up to you what you do with them.
Or maybe you are like the other cripple in the synagogue, the one He didn’t heal. Maybe your infirmity is less noticeable, but still you know yourself diseased, unwhole. You see the healing with rising hope and wait your turn. You believe!
But the miracle does not happen. The Man disappears in the tide of wonder and chaos. You visit the synagogue again and again, but you do not find Him. You cry out to God over and over, the same prayer as always.
You carry around this suffering, and everywhere you hear of this Jesus. The One who passed you by. You even see Him, but you cannot get close. His teachings are repeated and passed along, His words constantly swirling around you.
And you, too, are now given a choice. You can rage, or you can be still. You can let your mind be filled with all the churning of all the unanswered questions, or You can listen. You can open to the words. You can ask your suffering what it has to say. You can ask for His healing, which He always gives, but which you must receive. And then you will see that your pain is a gift that slows you to hear Him, that takes you deep into your self’s raw wounds.
“Stretch out your soul,” He says, and as you do so, your shriveled self begins to straighten.
The worth of that moment holds so much more than the fix you sought that would have driven your heart further from your true home. You, too, bear the marks of His love. It is up to you what you do with them.
Or maybe you’re the one who has it all together, who has built your life on careful guidelines, on Knowing What Is Required. You have congratulated yourself upon arriving even as you secretly worry that there is something else to do. You need to know yourself to be enough, so you measure yourself by the stick you were given, even though it is constantly changing.
When the Man comes who breaks all the rules, the unacceptable thing is how loved He is. How revered. This is not the way! And you look not at the joy of the healed cripple but at all the eyes suddenly turned away from you. You look not at the compassion in His eyes but at the wreck He has made of your following, the joke he has made of your dutiful life.
If you are not careful, you will soon find yourself in a mob before a judge, raising your fist and your voice in condemnation. You will watch Him die with satisfaction and wait for your kingdom to be restored.
But the world will not applaud you. It will pity you your smallness. And even those who do not follow Him will see you as you are. And you—you!—will have driven the nails into the very Truth you vowed to uphold.
But maybe, instead, you come near to listen. He turns His gaze on you. Yes, He tears down everything. But it is worth it. He starts from scratch out of the rubble of your soul, and His work bears the marks of His love. It is up to you what you do with them.
We are a people shriveled with pride. He isn’t interested in justifying our outrage. He has come to heal. But we will only be healed to the extent that we know our need, because he wants to heal us all the way. He comes to us, but we must stretch toward Him too, offering Him all the withered places.
If you are not healed, you can listen to your suffering. You can ask what it has to say about your soul. You can ask for the true healing and open yourself to receive it.
If you are the one who was healed, you bear the marks of His love. What will you do with them?
* From Matthew 12:9-14