This One Was Different
Today was the Sabbath, so I made my way to the local synagogue as usual. I do not spend much time in public settings, and I know well enough that people consider me to be a sinner because of my hand, but attending the scheduled teachings at the synagogue on the Sabbath is one exception to my rule. I've found that if I keep to myself, and sit toward the back, no one pays me much attention, especially if my hand remains well hidden in the folds of my cloak.
I learned to hide my hand and shrink into the background at such a young age! These techniques have served me well, but, of course, there have been times when I forgot to hide my hand, and have been mercilessly taunted and jeered for my forgetfulness.
As I arrived at the synagogue today, a day like no other, I learned that it was unusually crowded, and I found myself unable to sit in the somewhat shadowed seats in the rear. I just made do with a different seat--not my usual place, but it WAS off to one side, the right side, where I always sit.
Then I saw why we were experiencing all the crowding. That man was here, that man from Nazareth! I'm sure you've heard of him, and all the miracles attributed to him, and all the things he's been saying! Though I would never let anyone know my thoughts on the matter, I am all for a little shaking up of the religious leaders every once in a while, so I settled back with delight, my earlier, darker memories forgotten.
His discussion with the Pharisees seemed to be about respecting the Sabbath, and he brought up a time when David and his men had done something, but I lost the thread of the conversation because of some people passing beside me looking for seats. When I turned back toward him, I was shocked to see some of the teachers of the law pointing in my direction. No, not in my direction, they were pointing at me!
Then he said directly to me, "Stand in front of everyone."
Though my mind exploded into a thousand reasons why I couldn't, I shouldn't, I can't, my body seemed to act on its own, and I found myself standing front and center, in front of everyone, right beside him.
He spoke again, and my blood was pounding so hard in my ears that I couldn't hear what he was saying, but it was a question directed at those on the other side of his debate, not at me. Panic rose, and I wondered why I hadn't just run, sneaking out the back, dodging and diving around the crowds... Why didn't I do something, anything, but stand here, noticed and stared at? It was harder to hide my hand when standing, you see, and I could see people staring at it, pointing at it, even then. I waited, miserable, for yet another rejection, another mocking, a new humiliation to throw on the mountainous heap.
Then he turned back to me, to address me again. The crowd had grown so silent! There was an anticipation in the air, a tremendous sense of waiting. Even I could sense it, even through my fear.
"Stretch out your hand," he said.
My thoughts were a raging tempest. My right hand? My shame? The one thing I try to hide above all else? Stretch it out here, in front of everyone? In the synagogue? I...can't. I...they'll see it, even more clearly. They'll hurt me, again, like always... Why are you doing this to me?
And that thought became my anchor in the storm. Why was he asking this of me? As I slowly brought my hand up to waist level, then reached toward him, I knew why, and his reason for asking this of me was becoming clearer, with every tiny increase in my stretch, with every strange sensation that flooded my changing hand. It grew, it expanded, it filled out--it even changed color from the brown look of a leaf in fall to a robust, healthy glow!
The previous conversation crystallized for me now. The argument had been about working on the Sabbath, and I was his test--would he perform labor on the Sabbath by healing me? I had to laugh when I saw the expression on his face and the knowledge hit me--for him, this was not work, it was fun!
I was engulfed by what seemed like the entire population of the town, and I never even got to express my thanks to him. I hope he knows, from that one moment of eye contact we shared, how profoundly grateful I am. Everything has changed!
Now, it's evening and the hubbub seems to have died down some. I'm feverishly scribbling out a record of every little thing I can remember about this day, the Sabbath I will never, ever forget.
I am writing down all of this so someone else, someone unknown to me, might know that if the Lord asks you to stand up in front of everyone, do so, even if that's the last thing you want to do. If He tells you to do something that seems even more difficult or horrifying, like "Stretch out your hand," in my case, or possibly "Stretch out your heart," in your case, do it. He might have a great restoration in store for you!
If the penmanship in some patches is a little bit difficult to read, I beg your forgiveness. For I wrote those parts WITH MY RIGHT HAND!
April 22, 2004