Monday, February 9, 2009

Dancing on the Edge of Beautiful

Acts 3:1-10

Holding fast to the wonderful tradition of prayer at three in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way to the temple. How many times had they passed this way before? How often in the sojourns with Jesus had they passed through this particular gate?

Other days may have been forgotten, but they would not forget this particular day. Peter and John would not forget their encounter with the long-time resident of the gate Beautiful.

Daily this man had been carried to the steps and laid there to beg—to plead for alms as people entered the court. Familiarity was his enemy. His face was so common he was easily ignored and over-looked. But he had learned. He had become bold in his crippled state.

On this day he shouted out to Peter and John. He did not know and did not understand that the life he knew was about to change. The life he had become accustomed to was to be transformed.

He asked for his usual. His words were rote and stale. Repeated over and over until they had no meaning and no emphasis. He asked for coins to buy the paltry bread so he might beg again the next day.

From his stony pallet he cried out to Peter and John as they passed by him. He waited to see if they had a generous or stingy spirit. He waited to see if they even noticed before he attempted to garner the next person’s attention.

Often people didn’t even see him. He was invisible—a part of the daily ornamentation of the temple. Even when the Pharisees deigned to drop a trickle of money into his hands, they never looked him in the eye. They did not see him.

But on this day, the men stopped before him. They squatted level to his half-way erect body. They looked and saw his face rather than his maimed and crooked legs. Not only did they look, but they spoke to him.

“Look at us!” Pay attention to us, too. Just as the others were guilty of not seeing him, he did not see or remember the contributors either.

He looked at them with expectancy. He waited for a lecture or a spotlight on their generosity.

He didn’t receive either.

Peter and John didn’t give him what he expected. Peter and John didn‘t give him the token offering for a beggar.

Instead they held out their hands and pulled him up to his feet. And as they did they were explaining that they didn’t have a temporary solution, but they would give him what they did have.

As they lifted him—Luke, our beloved physician—tells us that the man’s feet and ankles became strong. They could hold his weight. In that moment another miracle occurred.

I have had a broken ankle. When you haven’t walked on your own feet in a while, you don’t just take off walking again. Your mind has to remember and you must have body and muscle recall.

This man had been crippled since birth—he had never walked. Never propelled himself forward in the toddler waddle, never graduated to the fast three year trot. But in this instant at the Gate Beautiful, this man—this beggar—stood on strong feet and walked for the first time in his life.

Don't miss this double miracle.

Luke tells us “he jumped to his feet…and went with [Peter and John] into the temple courts (had he never been inside before?) walking, jumping, and praising God.”

Miracles dancing on the edge of Beautiful.

I have been temporarily crippled. I have been in a place where I have felt like this beggar –sitting on cold, stone steps in a throng of people.

Invisible, unseen, ignored, tolerated.

And no wonder, it is hard for people to look a crippled beggar in the eye. They can’t make eye contact either because of their own issues or because of the beggar’s victim attitude and demeanor or both. (Who knows which happens first?)

I became a crippled beggar partially because of my own choices.

My ankles and feet were weak because I had forgotten to stand and walk on my own. I was crippled because I couldn’t see past my stony perch, and I had developed a crippled victim attitude in my heart and demeanor.

I am not sure where it started or exactly what caused this attitude. I am not sure how much I contributed to my own self-pity or how much circumstances determined and fed it. I do know it was a combination of both.

But somewhere and at some point I was shaken out of my depressed slumber, and I woke up and found myself on my stony ledge.

Precarious position.

Frightening perch.

I didn’t recognize myself. I tried to ignore the identity of this pathetic beggar woman I had become. I was appalled because I realized I had created some of my own crippled ness. I was also unbearably sad and trying desperately trying to find a remnant of who I remembered being.

Finally, I began to give way to the strong urge to cry out—and I began to shout for help. I became quite bold.

There were times I cried in no recognizable language. There were times I cried and was not even cognizant of doing so.

He sent help. He sent aid. He allowed me room to turn and pivot so I could leave that ledge I had been teetering on.

Funny thing, I was given not what I thought I wanted, but what I actually needed.

Like the man at the Gate Beautiful, I had to learn to ask for what I needed. I had to learn to look up. And I had to be willing to let go of everything I thought I knew, and allow him to pull me to my weak feet.

It took me a while to learn to walk again. I had to be very careful not to favor the weak parts of me. I had to take a risk and stand and put weight on my atrophied limbs.

I didn’t stop being a beggar immediately. Unlike my friend with Peter and John, my healing wasn’t immediate and sudden. Bones are often easily mended with time, rest, and good medical attention. I have dealt with broken bones.

Broken perspectives and warped attitudes are not as easily or quickly mended.

When I did begin to cry out I did not understand how much my life was going to change. When I began to shout from my beggar’s pallet I had no idea how much or how drastically my life was going to transform.

God didn’t give me what I expected. He didn’t give me the temporary token offering for a beggar.

He pulled me to my feet and made me walk.

And it hurt.

But he helped me to keep walking and now there’s tone in my muscles again.

I rarely sit on those stony steps any more. Sometimes I catch myself easing myself down there...

but (remember the Divine Conjunction?)

For all of you who are reading my words, I want you to know I have discarded my beggar’s rags. My face and hands have been washed and my hair has been combed.

These days you can find me dancing on the edge of beautiful

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