Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk.” Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk. John 5:8-9
No matter how hard I tried…he ignored me. So, I am a walker…sometimes more consistent than others but generally I walk several days a week. The habit person in me likes the consistency of taking the same route over and over. The adventure person in me likes to vary the routes that I take. The bottom line…it is a coin toss every time I walk. Regardless of which route I take, I see him frequently.
Who is he? He is one of the homeless guys here in our small town. Actually, I am only assuming he is homeless. Like I said, frequently and no matter how early, I see him riding his bike, pushing his bike, and sitting somewhere, anywhere holding onto his bike. When I stroll by, I try to be friendly. I walk by and give him a wave and a smile with a “good morning,” attached. He doesn’t respond. If you remember the story of Brier Rabbit and Tar Baby, you know when Tar Baby didn’t respond to Brier Rabbit—he got more than a little upset. Well, I think Brier Rabbit and I might be distant cousins. My thought was, “What’s up with this? Why is he ignoring me?”
Well, there were many attempts after that attempt, and it wasn’t just with him. I would try to wave, be friendly, and give a “Good morning” if we were in voice range. Almost without exception…there was nothing just a blank stare. Well, earlier this week it was the same song, same verse but this time something occurred to me…or more accurately maybe Someone spoke to me. The thought, the inner voice was this, “Dewayne, he is ignoring you because that is all he knows.” A bell went off in my head and in my heart.
I realized in that moment that to most people, these folks who live in the streets are ignored because they become invisible. Most people don’t even see them much less acknowledge them. And, I think, that once you have been ignored for so long…when you are invisible to the world around you…you stop seeing and feeling too. It becomes easy to just look, to stare until the world around disappears. And, you need to know, that it isn’t always homeless people…it can be just everyday walk-around people who have been bruised and hurt one too many times. They go to work, they function, but in reality, they stare into nothingness just trying to get by.
What are we to do? Well, first we don’t stop trying to reach out and touch those around us. Jesus was so good at seeing the invisible and loving the unlovable and do you know what? He never gave up. A story is told about a lame man who laid by a pool forever…or, at least, it seemed forever…38 years to be exact. The rumor was if you could be the first in the pool when the waters stirred, you would be healed. It wasn’t true and it really didn’t matter because he could never be first. And then…Jesus showed up.
Jesus saw him, spoke to him and asked this question, “Do you want to be well?” The man gave him the story about him and the waters. Jesus didn’t quit. He just said, “Pick up your mat and walk.” Well, the guy took the gamble, obeyed, and…he was healed…just like that. Amazing. Thirty-eight years of suffering came to an abrupt end. I guess we can’t offer the broken around us that kind of deal, but we can see, we can speak, and we can pray and when we do that…who knows what God will do?
Let me encourage you…and me for that matter…to start seeing again, to start loving again, to start making a difference, no matter how small, again. If you see someone obviously broken and you are a Jesus follower, just remember how broken you were when you met the Healer and He whispered, “I love you…I forgive you.” And as you remember, take that moment to reach out and let that person know how much God loves them and longs to forgive them. Oh, and let them know also that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne