Seven years ago my friend and I were part of a group of 5 women who developed a women’s retreat for our church. This retreat has been well attended each year since the first weekend.
The theme for that weekend was from the Gospel of Mark 2: 1-12. Specifically verse 11 when Jesus says to the paralytic, “…pick up your mat and go home.”
We met many times to discuss this theme in depth. We wanted to literally climb into the Bible and become part of the crowded room. We wanted to be the friends who carried the paralytic to be healed. We empathized with the paralytic on the mat. We totally immersed ourselves in this beautiful story.
We discussed what it meant to have friends that would carry your mat. What it meant to have friends that would go to great means for a friend. We visualized how they broke open the roof and lowered the paralytic down before Jesus.
Each time we met allowed us to become closer as friends ourselves. We sometimes met at a restaurant and enjoyed a glass of wine or a margarita together. We were bonding as we embraced the depth of this gospel. Little did we know then how much that story would touch us in the near future.
One of us would indeed need to be carried on the mat.
Shortly after this first retreat one of the five of us would be diagnosed with a terminal illness…pancreatic cancer. My best friend allowed us to place her on the mat and carry her. Friendship has many faces and it takes on many shapes. I think true friendship must be able to morph into whatever is needed. True friendship cannot be rigid and structure. True friendship must be fluid by its very nature.
Many times before her death the image of carrying her mat became more and more evident. She was no longer to do all that she wanted to do. Others came and carried a part of her mat.
It was something she certainly never anticipated. Her whole life she was the more likely person to carry the mat of another. But when she got sick all of that changed. All that we had discussed about the paralytic being carried by his friends was too real…painfully real. At times we did not even want to admit that she was on the ‘mat’.
But unlike in the Gospel we could not physically lower her mat through the roof and bring her to Jesus. While we loved the gospel image, for me it began to become a painful image. She wanted God to heal her so much and we all wanted her to be healed. God had other plans.
In the scripture after Jesus heals the paralytic it says, “They were all astounded and glorified God…” I have written more about the word astounded on my other blog, here is the link www.scripture4you.blogspot.com Astounded…Wonder and Awe
This verse also tells us they ‘glorified God’. I know without a doubt that my friend is healed and is in heaven glorifying God. She is now clothed with the eternal light of his love. He has indeed shown his brilliant face upon her. She joyfully rejoices at all he has done for her. She is now experiencing things unlike she could have ever imagined. And she had a vivid imagination.
The mat will always be an important image of friendship to me. We all need friends from time to time in our lives to carry our mat. We all need friends to carry us to the Lord…if not physically through their kindness and their love.
I desire to live my life so that someday I will be able to join those in the crowded room with Jesus and say, “I have never seen anything like this.”
I have faith that one day I will see my friend again and no words will be needed for us to communicate. Together we will glorify God for what else would there be to do in heaven? When we enter into the presence of pure love how wondrous will be that day.
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
“Rise, pick up you mat and walk.”
As I am writing this I am listening to beautiful symphonic music by Julie Larson. The sound of the instruments blending together lifts up my soul and inspires me.
“It was not you who chose me, says the Lord, but I who chose you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” John 15:16
Soon we will have our annual women’s retreat and she will be with us…her joyful spirit with be with us. This year the theme is, “… whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31 She loved this retreat so very much.
She continues to be missed and always…loved.