Today's sermon at church applied to me in SO many ways. It had several different 'hit points' and one of them to me was the idea of "The fellowship of the mat." The story of the paralytic from the book of Mark chapter 2, where four men brought the paralyzed man and dug out the roof of the home that Jesus was preaching in, then lowered their friend through the hole. It was the faith of the FRIENDS, not the paralyzed man, that brought him to Jesus.
In our own lives, our own 'story' right now, we are trying to bring home a little boy who could be that paralytic. He has little use of his arms and legs. He's dependent on others to get around. He probably cannot even sit up on his own right now.
In Bible times disabilities were seen as 'sins of the parents' and in Eastern Europe, that belief still exists and the children are still 'hidden away' and not seen as able to contribute to society. The friends must have seen something in their paralyzed friend to believe that he was 'worth it' to go through everything that they did to bring him to Jesus. Today it was suggested that those friends might be seen as 'outlandish teenagers' that were seen as strange and outside the norm. After all, they dug out the roof of a house! And they lowered their friend- who likely others see as not worth a second glance- and brought him to Jesus.
Today, I feel like those crazy teenagers. We're the roof diggers, the ones that are going against the social norms and choosing to bring a child who is seen as worthless in the eyes of his current society. We're going through these trials and leaps to be able to bring him--- where? Not to Jesus in hopes of his healing. Not to a place to be forgiven of his sins. No, into our home. Where we fully expect that he will stay 'disabled' and continue to need our care and assistance in most areas of life.
Yes, we'll teach him, and yes, we will absolutely bring him to the feet of the Father, pray for him (as we already are) and teach him about Jesus. We have wonderful hopes for him knowing and understanding Christ one day. So in that way, yes, we are bringing him to Jesus.
But here's the thing... the point that I was brought to while listening to this sermon, and one of the pieces of the main message is this: We can't do this alone. Monroe is the 'man on the mat' at the moment, but we all have our mats, our own issues that we need to be brought to Jesus because of, but Monroe, in this moment, is the child whose mat we have picked up and chosen to carry to Christ.
Because we believe that he has potential. Because we believe that God has called us to do this. Because we know that Monroe needs to be carried out, and in his current circumstances there is no life for him.
But we cannot do it alone.
The mat has four posts. Michael and I can only bring half of it. We need the community to gather, people to step forward and pick up the other two sides of the mat. Without YOU, we are dragging in the sand, with so much resistance against our own efforts that it makes it more difficult for us to do. God can use even that, but He doesn't intend it. The gathering, the "hooking on" to others in trust that they won't let you fall. That is the fellowship of the Body of Christ.
Many times we have been the ones that are the 'stable climber' and others hooking in to us feel that if they fall, we will catch them. Right now, though, we are the ones with the mat, needing others to pair up beside us and to help carry us all along.
How can you help? -Most of all-- PRAYER -If you're local, there are so many other areas, ones which we don't generally ask for help, but during this season of carrying the mat, we know it would be especially helpful. Things like our friend Chris watching 4 of the kids so we could be fingerprinted the other day. Michael's mom doing the dishes while we were out getting to spend a little time alone. My mom folding and sorting the laundry when the kids were sleeping the other day. The person that gave Monroe's grant stepping out financially and each and every person that enters the Vacation give-away for their financial contributions. -When we travel our needs will be greater. Just as those 'crazy people' carrying the mat for the paralytic in the Bible may have had families at home who they left to bring the man on the mat, we have a family that will need looking after while we go to bring Monroe home. We have a wonderful support system available and willing, but every little bit of extra help makes the task that much easier. The more people willing to step in for a time to help carry the mat, the less of a load on the carriers.
Not everyone will be used in the same ways, and not everyone is called to have a part in every part of God's work. Many people certainly thought that the four men bringing the paralytic to Jesus were crazy, doing a pointless task, and would be better used elsewhere and doing other things. Many probably thought they were shirking their own responsibilities to take care of this other man. But those four knew that this task was what they were to do and had faith and determination to bring their friend to Jesus. We will press on, despite those who feel we're spinning our wheels and despite those that say our responsibilities lay elsewhere. Because God has called us to go and carry the mat. And we pray that He is calling up others to join us for 'legs of the relay' to pick up the mat and join us as we bring "Monroe" home.
And here it is, my request for help. If you can help us carry the mat, if you feel called to be a part of bringing Monroe home, please let us know what role you can play in this journey. Maybe you are or have been praying for us and him. Maybe you can or have contributed financially. Maybe you can help with a meal or two when we are away and our families are chipping in with the kids. Maybe you can be 'on call' if one of our families needs help one day or evening. Maybe you can help in other ways for our family and children while we are gone. Maybe there's something else that you can think of that is a gift that YOU have that we might not even know to ask for.
We are blessed abundantly by those who step forward and say 'yes' when we ask. But rarely do we ask so publicly because rarely is our need this great. Even our last trip to Ukraine to adopt Emma and Micah- when I was gone for seven weeks straight and Michael for 4- we had just two children back home to care for. Leaving two, and leaving six, are a world apart.
THANK YOU for your prayers and your support. THANK YOU for helping us to carry this mat. THANK YOU for stepping up and saying that Monroe has a worth that you can see, that makes it a task that you want to join in to and be a part of. God has used so many already. He continues to use the willing to do the impossible.